Cultivating Contentment (Part Two): An excerpt from Chapter Seven, It’s Not About the Sex

The Father of Positive Psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman

By reminding yourself of what you’re grateful for in your recovery, you’ll build perspective against what hasn’t gone right in your life. Tracking gratitude also builds your capacity for deeper connections with others and decreases your tendency toward shame and comparison. Dr. Seligman suggests specific action steps to promote an “attitude of gratitude”: Begin by writing down three things you’re grateful for every day before going to sleep. Secondly, write a gratitude letter to someone who has positively impacted you, and deliver the letter directly to the person to savor the experience. Write about three different times in your life when one door closed, and another door opened as a result of that ending or loss.

Design a perfect day for yourself—an ideal field trip that feeds your soul. Write about it throughout the day and share what you wrote with someone you trust. Set aside a specific day to do something generous. Ask a friend or family member to write a letter describing how they see you impacting their future. Gratitude leads to inner vitality. It energizes you and teaches your neural pathways that a positive charge is sustainable. Implement Dr. Seligman’s suggestions that resonate most for you.

How do you experience vitality in your recovery today?

Mario: I want to learn more, and learn about different things, in a genuinely interested way—not in a compulsive way.

Colin: Vitality was not a feeling I had for the first thirty-five years of my life pre-recovery. Now I’m more productive at work and available for the people in my life, have the energy and desire to do things I enjoy, and continue to grow and expand.

Seth: In recovery I have a lot of passion. I dance, I hike—I still have a pretty youthful spirit.

Susan: The other day I found myself running like a little kid, just for fun. I don’t see a lot of forty-eight-year-olds doing that. I run for joy.

Contentment, gratitude, love. All of these are elements of purposeful recovery. As you build a capacity for a bigger life, savor the pleasant moments and see how they nourish your overall sense of wellbeing and hope.

Action Steps:

  1. Positive Psychologists introduced new strategies perfectly adaptable for addiction recovery. Identify your character assets and share them with a confidant.
  1. Core values emerge when you ask yourself, “What matters most to me?” Meaning and purpose also take shape once you clarify your values.
  1. Take time to write down your vision. Don’t rush—give yourself space and time to soak in the exercise.
  1. Name the dolphins in your life and increase contact with them. By spending time with your pod, anxiety will diminish, and a sense of connection will flourish in its place.
  1. Count your blessings every day. Keep a gratitude journal and share these revelations with loved ones. Focus on what’s going right and ask for help when things go wrong.
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