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Practicing Gratitude: 5 Things I Do Every Day

(Photo Credit: Andy Kropa)

As a recovering alcoholic, practicing gratitude is a key part of my daily life. It has to be — otherwise, I start to slowly slip back into a self-centered, self-pitying, reckless way of thinking that, if left unchecked, will most likely lead me back to the easy-out comfort of my former best friend, the vodka bottle.

I use the word “practice” because for me, being grateful is not easy. Sure, on some days, when everything’s going my way, it’s a cinch. But on the more difficult ones, it takes effort. And on some days, I totally know I’m phoning it in.

But here’s the thing — even just an ounce of effort is better than none at all. Because since I got sober and started incorporating these daily “thank you” routines into my life, my once non-existent self-esteem has started to soar. It’s actually quite amazing. I’m feeling more and more comfortable in my own skin, and I think that’s because I’m actually learning how to reach outside of it, and see the bigger picture of life.

I’m not saying that every day is a party — far from it. But I’ve found a balanced way of thinking, one I never knew existed, that helps get me through challenges and disappointments without wanting to mope or sulk or take a nice, stiff shot.

The following are things I do every day to keep myself, as best I can, in this spiritually fit mindset. You certainly don’t need to be an alcoholic to adopt these daily gratitude practices into your life. Anyone can benefit from adding extra love into their lives — especially for themselves.

1. I READ: Morning Affirmations

Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On/Tian Dayton, Ph.D., $9,

Every morning, while I drink my cup of coffee, I read from a daily affirmation book. There are a millions of them out there — some are specifically for alcoholics, and others that anyone can find meaning in, like my favorite, Forgiving and Moving On. It’s a great way to remind yourself just how cool life can be, or to learn something new, or to just think, for five minutes, about something other than the day you have looming ahead of you.

2. I WRITE: On my Buddha Board

(Photo Credit: Andy Kropa)

It looks like a dry-erase board, but it’s actually a small canvas that you paint on using water from a little well underneath. The message you make is never permanent — it slowly fades away as it evaporate into the air, reminding us that nothing in life lasts forever. I like to use mine to write special messages to my Higher Power (it’s the closest I’ve gotten to prayer, at this point) or notes to loved ones who have passed away.

3. I WRITE: In my Gratitude Journal

Courtesy of

I used to write in a real one, complete with paper and pen. But I got lazy and stopped. The exercise is simple — you just write a list of at least five things you are grateful for everyday. It can be anything, from the profound to the perfunctory (I often throw a beauty product in there, for example). But then I found this app, which reminds you to fill in what you’re thankful for, and when you’re done, offers you an inspiring (and often funny) quote, along with the cutest little meditating character I’ve ever seen. Now I’m back to doing this daily, via my phone.

4. I SAY: The Serenity Prayer

Although this saying is now mostly known as one of AAs popular meeting prayers, it was actually first penned by an American theologian name Reinhold Niebuhr. It’s so wise, so simple (yet so hard to do), and so. . . . right on. I can’t tell you how many times I repeat this saying to myself on a daily basis, and if I am able to practice just one of these three things a day, I know my head is in good, safe place.

5. I SING: Silly songs about the things I’m grateful for

I’ve done no research on this, but I’d believe it if they said singing around the house in the a.m. releases endorphins or dopamine or some other happy hormone.

Gretchen Rubin, creator of The Happiness Project, certainly agrees, so I’m inclined to think it’s a definite mood booster.

Last week, my morning jam was Lovely Day by Bill Withers — the point of which was to emphasize how much I appreciate my husband. I’d cue it up on my phone, and right as he was leaving for work, I’d start singing over the music:

“When I wake up in the morning, love
And the sunlight hurts my eyes
And something without warning, love
Bears heavy on my mind

Then I look at you
And the world’s alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it’s gonna be
A lovely day
… lovely day, lovely day, lovely day …”

I think he’s about ready for me to give it a rest, but the song just says everything I’ve been feeling about him — and about life — so I’m still at it. But I think it’s time to move on to something else. Suggestions?


It took eight years of struggling to get sober for me to truly understand what the word gratitude means. That it’s more than a just feeling — it’s something you have to take an active role in to achieve, it’s a practice, the results of which are oh-so-satisfying. Now I finally get it, and for that, I am truly grateful.


  1. Joyce says

    I have a Buddha Board and I love it. I use it mostly for doodles — my nieces like to play with it. It never occurred to me to use it for messages to those who have passed and I love that idea. It reminds me of what I sometimes do when I’m at the beach — I write “I love you” or “I miss you” to a loved one that’s passed away, then watch the waves wash over the message. Watching nature take the words away makes me feel like the message is actually going somewhere, to them. The Buddha Board is so similar — the message evaporates into the air.

    I’m going to try it. Thanks for the great idea, Susan, and another great post!


    • Susan Linney
      Susan Linney says

      Thank you, Joyce! I love your writing in the sand idea. It is a very similar thing, you’re right. I’m going to try it (in 7 months once winter is over:(


  2. I love this! I listen to music throughout the day but I’m going to try to be more intentional with the songs being uplifting. Thanks!

    • Susan Linney
      Susan Linney says

      Thanks Sara! It really helps in the morning I have to say, and I am SO NOT a morning person. I’ve actually been listening to “Free to Be You and Me” this week 🙂

  3. Mindy says

    I love your columns, especially the one about the Mad Pooper. When I was in treatment we also had a Mad Pooper dialogue going…….

    So please tell me where I can get a Budah board. Although I try to remember to pray every day, and I do meditate, I think it would be a great thing to add to my daily rituals!!

    Mindy H

    • Susan Linney
      Susan Linney says

      Thank you Mindy! What a funny coincidence, maybe there are more Nude Poopers out there than we realize!

      You can find a place to buy a Buddha Board at their website: I also know they are available on and in a ton of toy/novelty stores. I’d also suggest Googling it to see what you find. I bought mine on

      It really is a great, FUN tool. And perfect for morning messages like the ones I mentioned here.

      Namaste, Mindy!


      • Adrianna says

        Mindy, if you click on the words “Buddha Board” in Susan’s list, we’ve actually linked to them on Amazon. I frequently buy these for kids’ parties — they just love that they can do whatever they want and watch it magically “erase”. And there also mini-Buddha boards that are the size of an iPad mini. They’re perfect for setting up at your desk in the office. I love them.

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  5. Phil in LA says

    Hi, Susan, I just discovered your blog, and it’s a delight!  Thanks for sharing your experience, strength and hope.

    A gratitude “trick” I learned was to go through the alphabet and think of something for each letter that I’m grateful for.  Helps a lot when I do that while driving the freeway in LA!  🙂

    I started my sobriety while going through divorce (along with unemployment and financial crisis — as they say, no one comes into AA on a winning streak!) and my wife’s name was Anne.  So the first thing I would hit in my gratitude list was the person I resented the most!  

    That was a powerful lesson, of course.  Gratitude is a good resentment-remover.  We never reconciled our marriage, but today, nine year later, she is my best friend, the best parenting partner I could ask for, and we get along better than we did when we were married.  
    In sobriety, we have the opportunity for outcomes better than we can even imagine hoping for.

    I’m Phil, alcoholic.  Thanks for letting me share.

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