Sunday, April 11, 2010
It's come up a lot in the past year. Most people would consider themselves grateful -- who wants to be an ingrate? But how does one practice gratitude and is it really the key to happiness? I've never been one to embrace the concept of gratitude fully because I grew up being told to be grateful. My mother would warn me to show more gratitude or "the Lord would put you in a position of need and you'd end up crying for what you once took for granted". That kind of advice is right up there with being repeatedly told to not waste food because of the poor kids in Africa. So rather than look at gratitude as an insurance exercise, how can it really improve my relationships, make me a better person and also give my the illusive inner peace I so greatly desire?
I've read that when you are focused on being grateful for what you have, you're less likely to waste time thinking about what is lacking in your life. As I've learned this year, it's those 'wants' that can drive you crazy -- that make you look at your life with dissatisfaction and disdain. Your wants never satisfy you either because you'll always want something more no matter what you have. Wanting is bad - got it.
I'd like to have genuine feelings of gratitude on a daily basis. Some effort is required:
Compassion is a good start. There's nothing like opening your heart and trying to feel another person's pain to make you feel grateful for what you have. That sounds awful -- it should not be the reason we support our loved ones, but it's there in the back of your head -- "thank gawd I am not you".
I've learned this year that to express gratitude feels really good -- I mean REALLY GOOD. Just today I thanked a friend and I could feel a nice warm smile inside me. I can also see the effect it has on the person who feels appreciated. Who wants to be taken for granted?
Sometimes when I'm hosting my own pity party, it's tough to find much to be grateful for -- health, family, career, friends, blah, blah, blah. Yes, it's the same old list, but I shouldn't forget that those are my priorities! Being grateful endears me to them more. Suddenly the little pissoff daily annoyances don't matter when you stop to think about what you love about your life.
Lets not forget being grateful for the little things as well. I find that the added benefit is that it keeps me more present. I would hardly call myself an observant person, but when I take the time to notice and appreciate life's little things, like that all my family members are peacefully sleeping right now which gives me a few minutes of quiet, or that today was perfect Spring weather and I got to spend a good chunk of it outside or that I was able to help my child calm herself down without losing my patience for the first time in a long time ... I could seriously go on and on here ... it just makes me love life more.
Being grateful keeps me satisfied -- what I have is enough.