I have recently been spending a lot of time and energy in my own head, debating the concept of happiness. Forgetting in what a dangerous neighbourhood I find myself in when I am in my head.

Why is it that I am generally in a state of unhappiness, while others close to me are just that much more happy? Are they faking it or do they just feel lighter and brighter as a rule? Am I just a grumpy old fart who always looks at the dark side of life? Is everything around me black or am I just seeing the black in everything? (Thank you Chris Chameleon - loosely translated). Do I actually suffer from depression? Should I just accept that that is how I feel and carry on with my life of should I seek professional help? These few questions and a few thousand more were occupying my headspace over the past few weeks.

Like a hamster in a wheel, I did not get much closer to an answer than if I tried to dig a hole to China. Then, one morning during a guided medication session, the answer came to me. There is a saying that we use in addiction which goes something like: “If we stick to the basics, we never have to go back to them.” Well, so, during my four counts breathing in…, hold for eight……, breathe out in four… and stay like that for eight……, before repeating the process, it suddenly dawned on me that I have once again tried to progress to “Life 102”, while there is no such thing. Life consists of “Life 101” and that IS IT. The more I do “Life 101”, the better I get at it and the more comfortable and happy I am. When I complicate my life in trying to live that non-existent “Life 102”, I struggle with life. I find myself in a dark and dangerous depths of despair, I call that depression. My life feels completely unmanageable.

I then asked myself what is it that I used to do that I am not doing anymore. The answers were embarrassingly numerous, ranging from I am not surrendering, I am not getting out of the way and I am not doing enough for my fellow human beings, to me not taking regular inventory of my life and not caring for myself enough. But the one that hit me like a cold fish through the face, was that I am just not practicing gratitude anymore.

Once I have stopped beating myself to a pulp and hung the belt back in the cupboard, I opened my eyes and started taking note of the things around me. I once heard someone telling a story about one addict telling his sponsor that he has nothing to be grateful for, so his sponsor responded that maybe he should start with the fact that he is not on fire. So, I went back to basics and acknowledged that I am not on fire and for that I was and am truly grateful. From that low base gratitude builds easily. Without writing out a gratitude list here, it dawned on me that all I need to do is open my eyes and feel the gratitude.

Off course, a few minutes later I told myself that it is not working, because I was not feeling 100% better. But, as I kept on practicing an attitude of gratitude, I slowly but surely started seeing the sun shining and noticed the colours in things. I started observing the flowers and the food on my plate and the beggar next to the road. The more “gifts” I actively saw, the better I started feeling. The more I pulled my head out of my arse and smelt the roses, the more alive I felt.

Just for today I am not depressed and not just seeing the black in everything. I had a relatively happy day. I helped someone and planted something. I was a productive member of society and told someone I loved them.

I am actively living an attitude of gratitude and receiving more than I ever bargained for.