15 Feb How Gratitude can Change Your Life?
“Why did this have to happen to me?”
Those words used to come out of my mouth or run through my mind on a daily basis. It didn’t matter if it was something big (illness, losing a friend) or something little (overcharged at the shop, flight is delayed, spilled something on my dress). I was in a constant state of ‘poor me‘. I always wanted something more and couldn’t just be happy.
You see, I was never someone to look for things to be grateful for. I was always looking for the bad things that happened to me, rather than looking at all of the good things that were happening in my life every single day.
This all started to change once I began to cultivate a powerful feeling that had laid dormant in me for years…
Gratitude. A feeling of appreciation or thanks. So simple, yet so mighty.
I usually take for granted that I have legs to walk on, eyes to see with, arms I can use to hug my sons. I forget my sons! Well, I don’t actually forget about him, at least as a physical presence; I generally remember to pick Victor from school and feed both of them dinner. But as I face the quotidian slings and arrows of parenthood, I forget all the time how much they have changed my life or the better.
Maybe you’re wondering “What’s the big deal, anyway?
Gratitude doesn’t make problems and threats disappear. We can lose jobs, we can lose people, and we can get sick. I’ve experienced all of those things. I remember those harrowing times at unexpected moments: My heart beats faster, my throat constricts. My body wants to hit something or run away, one or the other. But there’s nothing to hit, nowhere to run. The threats are indeed real, but at that moment, they exist only in memory or imagination. I am the threat; it is me who is wearing me out with worry.
That’s when I need to turn on the gratitude. If I do that enough, suggests the psychological research, gratitude might just become a habit. What will that mean for me? It means, says the research, that I increase my chances of psychologically surviving hard times, that I stand a chance to be happier in the good times. I’m not ignoring the threats; I’m appreciating the resources and people that might help me face those threats.
Yes, there are bad things in my life, and it’s OK to feel bad about them. But it’s also important to remember the rest of my life, and to remember that even the bad things make life as complex and interesting as it is. Life would be boring without challenges!
Writing gratitude lists started as a challenge from a friend of mine. He told me to text him three things that I am grateful for EVERYDAY.
Sounds pretty easy right?
Well, it wasn’t .
When you’ve lived most of your life NOT focusing on gratitude, it’s not so simple to change that. Coming up with lists during those early days was challenging. Especially if I was having (what I thought) was a bad day.
But I learned that…
There is always something to be grateful for.
I’ve used this process hundreds of times since then, and it transforms everything:
When I’m feeling mad at someone, I can try to see what about them I’m grateful for.
When I procrastinate something, I can look at why I’m grateful to be able to work on that task.
When I get injured or sick, I can remember that I’m grateful just to be alive.
When I lose a good friend, I can grieve, but also be grateful for the time I had with them, and all that they gave me.
When something bad happens while traveling, I remember to be grateful for traveling at all, and that these challenges are what make the travel an adventure.
When someone doesn’t like what I do, and criticizes me, I can be grateful they care enough to even pay attention. Attention is a gift.
Gratitude is fantastic, but what does it actually look like in everyday life? When someone lives with gratitude, what do they actually do each day that separates them from most people?
I still have a lot to learn, but I can certainly say that my daily gratitude habit has made a difference for my long-term happiness. It has been one way that I have been able to live out gratitude on a daily basis.
So often, we see other people as mere means to some end that we’re chasing – the barista making your coffee, the clerk scanning and bagging your groceries, the mechanic working on your car. Our interactions with those people is so often distorted by why we are interacting with them — because we want them to provide something to us. But those people are not merely the services they provide — means to our ends. They are ends in themselves. As the philosopher Immanuel Kant put it:
“In the kingdom of ends everything has either a price or a dignity. What has a price can be replaced by something else as its equivalent; what on the other hand is raised above all prices and therefore admits of no equivalent has a dignity.”
Let me leave you with a prayer of gratitude that I’ve always found … well, perfect:
Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfilment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.
GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.
~ Author Unknown ~
That’s what truly, fantastically grateful people do. Can you?