Tuesday, 10 July 2018
The Secret to Happiness
Whenever anyone asks me what I most want for my children, my answer is to be happy. And isn't that what we want for ourselves too, above everything else?
Well, I've read several books and countless articles on the secret of happiness, and one thing comes up again and again: Gratitude.
This is particularly important for we addicts, especially those of you who have only recently quit drinking.
The reason we love alcohol so much, the thing that makes us crave it more and more is dopamine.
Dopamine is the feel-good hormone that is released in the brain whenever we reach for that glass of vino.
When we quit drinking, our brain really misses that dopamine, which is one of the reasons you'll often crave chocolate - sugar releases dopamine too.
But here's the good news: there's a really easy way to get the same dopamine hit, without all the downsides of alcohol like hangovers and self-hatred, and without mainlining cake: Gratitude.
Feeling grateful increases your levels of serotonin too, in exactly the same way Prozac does. It's nature's natural anti-depressant.
I know what you're thinking: that's all well and good, but what if you can't think of anything to be grateful for?
Sometimes life just really is a bit miserable. Everything is going wrong, and the last thing is the world you feel is GRATEFUL.
Well, here's a wonderful trick:
Remember when you wanted what you currently have.
I saw that written on Facebook, or Instagram, or a t-shirt - I can't remember. What I do remember is it getting stuck in my head and having a profound impact on me.
It's so easy to constantly strive for the next thing, always looking ahead and feeling miserable when we can't clear the next hurdle.
The crucial thing is to look back from time to time, and to see how far you've come.
For example, I have (many) days when my children are driving me crazy and I'm just exhausted with it all.
So, now I make myself remember my two early miscarriages, how utterly devastated I was and how all I wanted in the whole world was to be pregnant. I told myself that if my husband and I could have children I would never, ever want for anything else.
I remember when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer and thought I might die pretty soon. The only thing I wanted was to be around for long enough to see my children reach adulthood.
I remember when we bought our first flat, and just a couple of months later there was a fire in the flat two floors above us, and the whole house nearly burnt down. I remember thinking that the only thing that was important was a roof over your head.
If you're struggling with the early months of being sober, remember when the thing you most wanted was to just get through a whole week without a drink.
The truth is that when the s**t hits the fan, we realise that all we really want is the simple things: family, health, a home.
However bad things seem, if you can remember to be grateful for these things, for anything, you will feel happier. The more often you find something to be grateful for, the easier it gets and the happier you feel. Simple.
If you'd like to read more about how to feel happy without booze, then there's a wonderful article from Time Magazine going up on the SoberMummy Facebook page this evening. (If you 'like' the page, Facebook will keep you updated).
For the story of my first year sober, with all its ups and downs, read The Sober Diaries. Click here if you're in the UK, here for USA and here for Australia.
Love to you all!