In the young men’s recovery group I run each week there are always two constants: we start off the group talking about “brags” for the past week and end it asking what they each got from group that day. What happens in between often fluctuates and is dictated by what is going on that week for everyone. I really admire the young men I get the pleasure to work with, it is one of the highlights of my week being a part of such a special place where men can open up, be vulnerable, and support each other.
Today’s group was again another great group that took some great turns that I just could not have scripted if I wanted to, that is the magic of group. It started when a group member shared about a performance he had sober and how invigorating it was to truly feel every aspect and emotion surrounding that experience. I could tell it was electric for him; he was still buzzing and beaming talking about it four days later. He shared how he had done this same performance several times before but always felt numbed and disconnected from the full experience because he always had to be high before and after.
This led to a great discussion on what kind of everyday experiences are better now that they are not a slave to alcohol and drugs. One person shared about how good showers feel now that they are not connected with hiding out and using in the bathroom. Another member shared how accountable and successful he is in college now that he is not preoccupied with getting high or withdrawing in class. One of the young men shared now he can truly be in touch with his emotional experiences throughout the day and another member shared how he can be in touch with and recognize accomplishments throughout the day rather than feeling beaten down with how behind in life he is.
The discussion carried on and gratitude started to be a strong sub-topic that emerged on its own. Not just about the big things such as family, job, school, and sobriety; but the smaller things that are easy to overlook, or that get lost in our wants and desires for more. The tiny day to day things that we overlook so easily; it may not seem worthwhile spending time on it, but it is. Stop and recognize how you did a good job today, or someone else.
Look for the moments in the day where the weather is just right. Appreciate it. Notice it. What do you hear? How does it feel? Is there a breeze? Is your skin warm or cool? How often are you lost in thought during this perfect moment in the day? Take it in. Be grateful for it. A great teacher of meditation, Jack Kornfield, says all we have is the moment, the past is a memory and the future is a fantasy. Taking these moments, being aware of the small things we are grateful for, including ourselves, can quiet the mind, relax the body, and ease the soul. Studies show, on a scientific level, stopping throughout the day and being mindful of the moment and appreciating the little things can actually change how our brains are firing. Areas that are overactive slow down and our brains become more balanced. Since our mind, brain, and body are all essentially one unit taking care of your brain can help take care of your body.
Practice this; chances are you are like most of us and this is not part of your daily routine. Don’t expect to be perfect at it, like everything it takes practice. Stop and be aware of your surroundings without thinking about where you are going, what you have to do when you get there, what you have to do after that, and hoping someone took care of what you need them to take care of so you can do what you need to do. Just be. Be as in the moment as you can and look for something that stands out that you are grateful for. Take the time to fully appreciate this gift.