A fundamental principle of the rehab recovery process lies in the power of positive thinking. After all, there is a whole school of science dedicated to this idea called Positive Psychology, which is rooted from the practices and beliefs of Buddhism, a faith very much based on the notion that gratefulness leads to happiness. Now whether you identify as a religious individual or are an evidence-based thinker, the idea that focusing on the good will make the negatives either fall away or become infinitely more bearable can be appreciated on either side of the belief spectrum.
Time to Put an End to Suffering
We’ve all realized by now that, unfortunately, suffering is a part of life. However, a lot of our suffering is closely tied to our mindset and often much of it is self-created. When something negative unexpectedly arises in our life that causes us pain or suffering, we often resort to a mindset of, “This isn’t fair! Why is this only happening to me?”
While it is a natural human instinct to recoil in the face of pain and suffering, our mental and emotional reaction to the initial onset of pain can actually exacerbate or prolong it by dwelling on it. We can, however, strengthen our mindset by altering our perspective from one of self-victimizing to one of gratefulness. In doing so, we will become happier, more successful, driven people by focusing on what we have rather than what we are lacking.
How to Change Your Perspective
When it comes to focusing on what you have going for you in your life, the art of comparison can be a powerful tool when used correctly. If we are struggling to see what we have, odds are we are comparing our circumstances to those of someone more well off than us. Newsflash: there will ALWAYS be someone more well off than you. But what happens if we compare ourselves to someone who is experiencing far greater suffering than us?
Perhaps consider what life is like for the single mother working two jobs to support herself and her child. Or consider a day in the life of the homeless veteran who spends his time begging for change on a street corner in hopes of getting a bite to eat. Even more, consider the life of a woman in the hospital who has just received word she has cancer and has limited time left on earth with her loved ones.
Do not misunderstand me when I ask you to consider the lives of others who may be in greater pain than you for I am by no means insisting that your pain does not matter. It does. Immensely. But by engaging in this exercise, your realm of thinking should expand beyond yourself to other people so you can see more clearly what you have in life to be grateful for.
Building a New Habit
If you are still struggling to find something to be grateful for in life, the most common answers I get from adolescents I work with in drug rehabilitation when asked the question “What do you have?” include the following:
- my health
- my family
- my best friend
- my sibling(s)
- my mother
- my caseworker
- my job
- my education
Perhaps some of these answers will also inspire you.
By practicing gratefulness daily, we begin to shift our focus from a negative to a more positive one, which allows us to use our blessings as motivation in our recovery process. In addition, contemplating the suffering endured by others opens our eyes to the notion that we are not alone in our pain and that though it may be difficult in the moment, there are others who have experienced the same pain and are a testament to the saying “that which does not kill you, makes you stronger.” After all, maybe the very purpose of us enduring pain we’re in now is to help others who will struggle the same way in the future.
 Cutler, Howard C. The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living. New York: Riverhead, 1998. Print.