Gratitude Is the Gift That Keeps on Giving
Multiple studies show that the way to more contentment and happiness in life is to add more gratitude. Among other things, it improves the way we view ourselves, it contributes to a positive outlook, and it enhances our overall well-being.
But… what is gratitude, exactly?
For many, gratitude is a response – to generosity, or good will, or good fortune. Almost involuntarily, it flows in proportion to the significance of the event. A kind word spoken when spirits are low is met with gratitude. Recognition for a job well-done releases more gratitude. A life changing opportunity lands in our lap and the gratitude overwhelms.
This is what gratitude looks like, but is that all? What of the simple and mundane things – a new day, good health, food to eat? Is there room for gratitude in moments like these? Appreciation for the new or big change in our life is easy, but what about the constant and unchanged; the staples of our life? Must they lose their luster after a while? Can we still be grateful when these new things become those old things?
Gratitude can be small and specific – a response to circumstance – but it can also be something different.
It can be larger, a way of life. It can be a bias, a filter from which everything in life is viewed. Gratitude in this form focuses less on what happens to us and more on our ability to recognize the beauty and blessings wherever they lie – whether hidden or in plain sight.
Gratitude in this form is more for us than it is for others. It colors our perspective and affects the way we see the world. The more we connect to it the more the world looks like a place of hope and love and favor. The more we feel supported by life, the more we believe in the possibilities. The more we believe in the possibilities, the more we see the opportunities, and so on and so on… It’s a compounding effect.
Practicing this proactive form of gratitude makes us resourceful. The patterns of thought that allow us to see the gifts that others don’t, hidden in the cracks of a seeming problem, are similar to the solutions-oriented patterns of thought necessary to solve those problems. In both cases, there is a deliberate choice to discount and minimize any negative focus, and instead, seek out that which we wish to see.
So how do we add more gratitude to our life?
Embrace the idea that life owes us nothing. The more we believe this to be true the more we can feel grateful for the things in our life. Everything – our parents, our friends, our talents are all gifts; nothing is owed us. Any and everything good in life is a blessing and should be acknowledged as such. When our thinking is transformed in this way gratitude will be the natural result.
Actively practice gratitude as much as possible. This may be difficult at first, but with time it gets easier. The trick is to cultivate a deep sense of gratitude for the simple and ordinary things. If we can feel grateful for the simple things, the rest will be easy.
We don’t have to wait for miracles to express gratitude. We can learn to see the gifts, both big and small, that fill our lives. And the more we see, the more we’ll see – and the easier it’ll be to fill our hearts with gratitude for this beautiful life of ours.