Principles of Service and Gratitude

12-step program12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The twelfth step of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) recognizes that the practice and principles applied in the entire ladder continue throughout a lifetime.  It is having the awareness to continue to live out the values of AA in our life and our relationships.  Learning and personal growth doesn’t stop once we complete all the steps.  It is a gradual and continual process.  It continues as long as we are open to noticing, observing our inner and outer world, and it’s affect on others and ourselves.  It is continuing responsibility for our actions, attitudes, and assessing our values and goals to ensure we are moving in harmony.

Maintaining sobriety is equivalent to a dieter who lost (fifty) 50 lbs.  To upkeep the recent weight loss; personal habits, choices, and a support system must be maintained.    The new physique is taken care of by consistent exercise, healthy food choices, and constant consciousness of the things they do, don’t do and consume.     The same is true for a member of AA.  Abstinence of alcohol unmasks many of the insecurities, fears, anger, sadness, and hurt covered by the veil of alcohol.  To help continue the change in behavior the recovering alcoholic must find healthy ways to acknowledge and process those surfacing emotions on a daily basis.  The principles of the twelve steps are a roadmap to notice, assess, and make adjustments to personal behavior that was denied while drinking.

Step twelve is based on the principles of service and gratitude.  In service, we are helping others.  In gratitude, we are thankful for the support, guidance, and safe environment to express our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs associated with our continued sobriety.

Since we have awakened from our own misguided beliefs, we have the experience, knowledge and ability to help others who may be struggling.  As a member of AA it is our duty and privilege to pass on our wisdom, our understanding, and our support.  It may be as simple as listening with an open mind and kind heart.  It may be validating for the first time someone’s thoughts and feelings.  It may be sharing from personal experience.  It may be sponsoring a newcomer and providing consistent friendship and support for their sobriety.  It may be any one or more of these deeds of service.  The most important component is to offer compassion, understanding, and an empathic listening ear.

As part of the AA program we provide service to others with humbleness and gratitude.  Having appreciation for a spiritual awakening is being thankful for the people who were there for us when we needed help.  It is reflecting on what we learned, being grateful, and in turn sharing our knowledge.  It is also assessing the approach that was given to us and adjusting it to what we would have liked when we first entered AA.  How has AA helped you and how would you convey that to others in a helpful manner?

AA is about living a clean and sober life with meaningful and honest relationships.  The twelve steps provide a foundation and platform to launch your personal growth and development of healthy relations with yourself and others.  Following the principles one day at a time enhances our lives.  The program when followed correctly ensures when we pass, we are remembered for being present, honest, courageous, humble, responsible, patient, and charitable with faith and hope for the future.

Here is a list of seven questions to help ponder your experience with the Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous.

1. Have you been able to reach out to another recovering addict? If so, describe the situation and how it feels to you.

2. What kind of approach would you like to have had when you first started the program? How can you implement your desired method in your life to others now?

3. How has the 12 Step program worked for you? 

4.  How do you usually handle conflict? Do you know of any way to be more effective in conflict resolution? If so, how would you become more effective? What would be the steps?

5.  How much time are you willing and able to work with others on their program? How will you go about setting that time aside?

6. What resources other than AA can you call upon when you need help as a sponsor?

7. How and when do you know if you are suited to helping another person on working a 12 Step program?

Contact me to enhance your journey recovering from alcohol or substance abuse addiction.  April Wright, MA., MFT Registered Intern #69624. Under supervision of Kathryn Tull, M.A., LMFT #44809 Kathryn Tull, Inc. 310.502.4944 http://www.therapywithapril.com https://femmevolution.wordpress.com
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Gratitude is the Heart’s Memory

Gratitude_Mandala“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  – John F. Kennedy

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”  – Melody Beattie

 “Gratitude is a mark of a noble soul and a refined character. We like to be around those who are grateful. They tend to brighten all around them. They make others feel better about themselves. They tend to be more humble, more joyful, more likeable.”  – Joseph B. Wirthlin

Gratitude is being grateful! Thankful! Appreciative! Obliged!

Life can feel so negative. Whether it is family quarrels, friends who aren’t there when you need them, media attention on the latest school shooting, co-workers or supervisors critical of your work; whatever it may be, the world is induced with negativity. You can increase your own feelings of gratitude by keeping a daily journal in which you list up to five things for which you are grateful.

Gratitude is being aware of and appreciating good things that happen and taking the time to express thanks.

 Positives of gratitude:

  • Less burnout
  • Higher job satisfaction
  • Motivates pro-social behavior
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Affect perception of the work place
  • Positive bias in remembering life events
  • Promotes effective coping skills

Dispositional and situational gratitude may impact different aspects of well-being. Thus if you are more grateful for social aspects of your life but not your work environment, you may benefit by focusing your gratitude journal on workplace aspects.

To ensure consistency consider:

  • Timing
  • Frequency
  • Place
  • Environment

Choosing a convenient, consistent time and location may increase the likelihood that you will follow through on maintaining a gratitude journal.

Things to consider:

  • Time span

Daily journaling is the most effective. Regardless, research shows entries made daily, over a short period of time (two weeks) or longer; weekly over a longer period of time (ten weeks) had a positive impact.

  • Focus

Professional. Intimacy. Family. Social. Personal. Recreation. Spiritual. Career. You may choose to pay attention to a different aspect of your life each day of the week or to center on only one facet over a particular time span. It is your choice.

  • Method

Use pencil and paper, audio recording, word processing, or a smart phone or tablet computer application. Does one method differ in effectiveness versus another? Choose the one that enables you to maintain consistency.

  • Letter writing

Write a letter expressing your gratitude to a particular person, supervisor, colleague, friend, or loved one could impact the recipients’ attitudes and behavior in the workplace, home environment, or social settings. It can also help you cope more effectively with conflict even if the letter isn’t sent.

References

Lanham, Michelle E.; Rye, Mark S.; Rimsky, Liza S.; Weill, Sydney R. Journal of Mental Health Counseling. Oct2012, Vol. 34 Issue 4, p341 – 354. American Mental Health Counselors Association.

Froh, Jeffrey; Emmons, Robert; Card, Noel; Bono, Giacomo; Wilson, Jennifer. Gratitude and the Reduced Costs of Materialism in Adolescents. Journal of Happiness Studies. Apr2011, Vol.12 Issue 2, p289-302.

Optimize Brain Function and Create Happiness

be_happyHappiness is a choice.  It can be a difficult decision to make with all the negativity in the world.  It doesn’t have to feel like such a daunting option when focusing on small changes.  Small changes create big leaps forward.  Over time a greater sense of happiness is enlivened.  If you want to optimize your brain health and create greater happiness here are some simple ideas.  You don’t have to do them all to achieve results. Focus on just a few and see how you can make small changes ripple outward.

1. Meditate.
2. Journal.
3. Write 3 things you are grateful for daily.
4. Exercise.
5. Create random acts of kindness.
6. Drink at least 6 to 8 oz of water daily to stay well hydrated.
7. Eat healthfully with lean proteins, 5 to 7 cups of fruits and vegetables and whole grains daily.
8. The suggested nutritional supplements tyrosine (500 – 1500 milligrams) 2 to 3x daily; OPC (oligomeric procyandius) grape seed or pine bark (1 milligram per pound of body weight); and gingko biloba (60 – 120 milligrams 2x daily) help increase dopamine and blood flow to the brain and may help with energy, focus, and impulse control. Before taking any supplements, first consult with your doctor.
9. Think positive, healthy thoughts and rid yourself of automatic negative thoughts.
10. Surround yourself with positive, uplifting people.
11. Spend time with people you want to be like. You are more likely to become like them.
12. Talk to others in loving, kind, helpful ways.
13. Fill your environment with comforting smells such as lavender, rose, or cinnamon.
14. Breathe into your diaphragm.
15. Effectively confront and deal with situations involving conflict.
16. Develop clear goals for your life (relationships, work, money, and self) and reaffirm them every day.
17. Focus on the positive things in your life more than the negative.
18. Establish eye contact with and smile frequently at others.
19. Notice when you are stuck, distract yourself, and come back to the problem later.
20. Write out options when you are feeling stuck.
21. Seek out the counsel of others when feeling stuck. Often just talking about feeling stuck will open new options.
22. Enhance your memory skills by learning something new every day.
23. Sing, hum and move in rhythm often.
24. Touch others frequently in a loving and appropriate manner.
25. Power pose daily for 2 minutes.

Life brings many challenges.  There are many uncontrollable ups and downs.  Regardless of what life may throw us, we can still choose to be happy.  Adding just one or more habit from this list ensures you are controlling what you can.  You are making certain your brain performance and personal well-being are at their best.

The Secret of Love (Spoiler Alert)

journey by Deepak Chopra, MD

The Internet has taken up the slack from print media by offering tips on love and relationships, which pop up on home pages, in tweets and in news teasers many times a day. If the secret to lasting romance could be shared like a recipe for cinnamon buns, our problems would be over. But love isn’t a fact, formula, or definable in words.

Love is a process, perhaps the most mysterious one in human psychology. No one knows what creates love as a powerful bond that is so full of meaning. If romance was only a heady brew of hormones, genetic inheritance and sex drive, all we’d need is better data to explain it. But love is transporting. It carries us beyond our everyday selves and makes reality shine with an inner light. The reverse can also happen. We crash to earth when the wear and tear of relationships makes love fade.

The process of love is kept alive by evolving and not getting stuck. Infatuation is an early stage of the process. You bond with another person as if by alchemy, but in time the ego returns with the claims of “I, me, and mine.” At that point love must change. Two people must negotiate how much to share, how much to surrender and how much to stand their ground. It would be tragic if romance faded into everyday familiarity, but it doesn’t have to.

Beyond the stage of two egos negotiating for their own interests, there is deepening love. It doesn’t try to turn the present into the past. A married couple of twenty years isn’t still infatuated with one other. So what keeps the process alive? For me, the answer was revealed by reading a startling sentence from the Upanishads, which are like a textbook of spiritual understanding. The sentence says, “You do not love a spouse for the sake of the spouse but for the sake of the self.”

At first glance this seems like a horrible sentiment: We all love on a personal basis and we expect to be loved the same way, for ourselves. But if “self” means your everyday personality, there is much that isn’t very lovable about each of us and as a marriage or relationship unfolds, there’s a guarantee that our partners will see those unlovable things more clearly. Even a knight in shining armor might want to save more than one damsel, and even saint must use deodorant once in a while.

In the world’s wisdom tradition, “love” and “self” are both universal. They exist beyond the individual personality. The secret of love is to expand beyond the personal. When people say that they want unconditional love, they often imply that they want to be loved despite their shortcomings, issues and quirks. But that’s nearly impossible if love remains at the personal level. At a certain point, if you begin to see love itself as your goal, universal love is more powerful and secure than personal love.

The poet Rabindranath Tagore described the spiritual side of love in a single expression” “Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation.” The gift of human awareness is that we can locate the source of creation in ourselves. By going deeper into the self, asking “Who am I?” without settling for a superficial answer, the ego-personality fades. A sense of the true self begins to dawn, and it is this self that exists in contact with love as the only reality.

The journey becomes more fascinating if someone else travels with you. Life isn’t about abstractions; it’s about experience. If you have a beloved who stands for the feeling of love, bonding, and affection, your journey has a focus that can’t be supplied merely by thinking. The experiences that love bring include surrender, devotion, selflessness, giving, gratitude, appreciation, kindness and bliss. So if the phrase “universal love” seems daunting or improbable to you, break it down into these smaller experiences. Pursue them, and you will be traveling in the direction of your source, where the true self and true love merge.

That’s where my spoiler alert comes in. Announcing the secret of love cuts short the actual experience. It doesn’t always help to know what’s coming, because you might fall into exaggerated expectations and fall short. It’s better and more realistic to become aware that love is now your personal project. Show kindness and gratitude. Speak about what your beloved means to you. Every step on this journey works on behalf of the two of you but also on behalf of the self that unites you at the deepest level.