The life changing force of gratitude
The life changing force of gratitude
In a world of excess - gratitude is in short supply. We fill our homes and lives with the latest stuff, only to add clutter and debt to our lives. Gratitude is not about our consumer driven wants, but about being grateful for what we have.
Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
We chase happiness pursuing the type of joy that slips through our fingers like grains of sand. I have felt like I have been chasing happiness this year. I have experienced moments of great happiness visiting some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. But the happiness fades and leaves a sense of emptiness as soon as the plane leaves the tarmac returning home.
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.
- Denis Waitley
The 24 hour news cycle creates fear and unhappiness in our lives. It feeds our dissatisfaction, fills our life with negativity and draws us down. This has never been truer than it is now with difficult elections around the world turning even friends against each other.
The judgmental world around us saps our ability to be grateful. The competition to be the smartest, the most handsome, the prettiest, the richest, the thinnest wears on our self-esteem. The happiness that we might feel from the acceptance of others is still not true happiness because it puts the control of our happiness in the hands of others.
I marvel that the most grateful people are those who have the least or who have lost it all.
People who have experienced a serious illness or injury seem to understand gratitude best. The same is true for those I see interviewed following a disaster. Many have lost every tangible belonging they had and yet express their extreme gratitude for their life and their families. They are the ones that truly understand this magic key to happiness.
“It is not happiness that brings us gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings us happiness.”
Gratitude bestows the type of happiness that comes from the inside out. It is a happiness that fills us with peace and fulfillment and satisfaction with the life we have. True and honest happiness – not manufactured happiness.
Gratitude bestows reverence – a deep respect for someone or something in our life.
The Benefits of Gratitude
If they could bottle this – everyone would buy it. Gratitude makes you:
· More Likeable...
· Healthier with better sleep, lower blood pressure and improved immune system...
· More successful in our careers with greater productivity and energy...
· More resilient, more relaxed, more optimistic...
· Builds deeper relationships and opens the door to more relationships...
· Improves psychological health...
· Reduces aggression and envy while enhancing empathy...
· Gratitude improves self-esteem...
· And so much more….
The Road to Gratitude
There is a lot of advice already written on gratitude. But I didn’t feel as though I was really reaching the level I wanted to achieve. The cynicism and division of the election in the US has depressed me and dragged me down. It has caused me to feel scared and on edge. And the combination of the 24 hour news and social media has made it even worse. My mornings start early with a brisk walk, prayers and a list of what I am thankful for. However, it felt too routine, too memorized and wasn’t leading to a truly grateful life for me – especially at a time I need it most.
Here is what the experts recommend:
Journaling – Gratitude journals are very popular. The reason they work though is that they force us to focus each day on what we are thankful for. But it requires that you go beyond – “I am thankful for my Family.” For me this week – “I am thankful I ran into my son in the grocery store and it turned a chore into a fun time catching up with him and shopping together.”
Gratitude Jars – These are a great idea. Drop in a note every time you are grateful for something. It focuses your attention on your gratitude. Derrick Carpenter recommended emptying the jar on New Year’s Eve to read all the notes of gratitude. What a great way to start off a new year.
Write thank you notes – Share your gratitude and appreciation for others by writing a thank you note. Of course, email is always fast, easy and immediate but a hand written note, mailed with a stamp is very powerful.
Give a compliment – Look for ways to compliment others or to share appreciation with others. For example – “Isn’t it a beautiful morning?”
Defuse negativity - If you find someone who is very negative balance it with positive thoughts and comments.
Be outwardly positive – stop complaining, stop being critical, stop gossip.
Be the inspiration for others – a smile, a kind word, a listening ear in this world where these are in such short supply.
Regardless of the technique that works for you - It needs to be specific and not the same every day. See your world in a new way - from a view of gratitude for all that is good in our life. See all that we miss on a daily basis and take for granted.
For me, gratitude comes from focusing more on others, helping others and taking my attention off of my wants and needs. Taking time to notice the beauty in the every day, in the most ordinary parts of our lives.
I am grateful to those of you who have read this. I am grateful for a few close friends who have stood by me for many, many years. And I am grateful to have new friends I have met this year. I am grateful for my family and all the personalities that entails.
I am grateful.
“When you look at life through eyes of gratitude, the world becomes a magical and amazing place.” – Jennifer Gayle
Kathy Finnerty Thomas is the President of Stowebridge Promotion Group. She also speaks on corporate culture, vision and leadership as well as helps companies through training and facilitation to build a values based culture to deliver exceptional customer service. She actively volunteers at the university level speaking to students and mentoring.