The importance of living in gratitude cannot be underestimated. “The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. And gratitude doesn’t need to be reserved only for momentous occasions: Sure, you might express gratitude after receiving a promotion at work, but you can also be thankful for something as simple as a delicious piece of pie.”1
In addition to those listed above, imagine how gratitude can positively impact your life:
- Increased self-esteem
- Less self-centeredness
- Increased energy levels
- Reduced materialism
- Greater sense of purpose
- stronger spirituality
- More optimism
- Overall sense of happiness
- Joyful hearts
- Deeper friendships/stronger marriages
The ancient philosopher Cicero called gratitude the mother of all virtues. Sadly, with much of the world’s consumeristic mentality, it’s easy to focus on what we lack, or on what others have that we do not.
In her sermon yesterday, Dr. Martha Neba M’Bandi said, “If all you can see is what you can see, you are missing out on the big picture.” If we can’t see beyond what is in our immediate vision, she’s correct, how can we be consciously aware of and grateful for all of the true blessings around us?
Living in gratitude is a choice and one we must make daily. When we do this, we shift our focus from what we lack to what we already have. Imagine the beauty, wonder and magic in walking through life with open eyes and hearts: the abundant blessings that can and should be marveled at and celebrated!
Creating a culture of gratitude is not always easy. It opposes our human need to be in control of our destiny. Often when challenges or perceived failures arise, our natural reaction is to go into panic mode. I liken it to tunnel vision or putting the blinders on. We can only see right what’s in front of us and we can’t envision any other perspective or solution. We may even try to blame others for our faults and failings. These behaviors certainly leave no room for living a grateful life.
Choosing to live a life of true gratitude (not just saying a non-genuine nor heartfelt please and thank you), is a worthy life goal. Remember the Aesop fable about the slave who pulls a thorn from the lion’s paw? At one point the slave and lion are captured and the slave thrown to the lion. The starving lion rushes in roaring at the slave, but immediately upon recognizing his friend, stops to lick his hands and face just as a puppy would. ‘Gratitude’, concludes Aesop, ‘is the sign of noble souls’.
What About The Bad Times
Even in the worst moments of our lives, (illness, job loss, death, addictions, marital or family troubles, etc.), we must cling to the goodness that surrounds us. When the dark shadows come, this is when need gratitude the most.
Sure, living in gratitude is easy when love is new, we receive a special gift, or a promotion. It’s easy when there’s food on the table, the baby is sleeping all night, and the car runs great. But, what happens when the dinner burns, the baby has seemingly endless colic and the car needs new brakes? Hmm, not so easy now? Or, is it?
- You woke up today, say Thank You!
- You have place to stay & a warm bed, say Thank You!
- There’s coffee, say a double Thank You!
- The baby is still sleeping, say Thank You!
- You found a gift card for tonight’s meal, say Thank You!
- You found someone to repair the car at a lower cost,
- You were able to sleep a few hours in spite of pain
- You look out the window and see a glorious sunrise
- You have heat, water, electricity, food, etc., say Thank You!
So, what steps can we take to practice gratitude each day? It can be as simple as writing something down each day in a spiral notebook. Of course, you can get fancy, and create a colorful Gratitude Journal. The same thing can be posted on social media (I did this on FB in 2016). Each morning as you wipe the sleep from your eyes, say a Thank You for new opportunities that the day will bring. Before falling asleep, take a few moments to reflect and be thankful, even for the trials and tribulations, for indeed, they are blessings too!
Better yet, you can use a custom-made box that I’ve personally created as part of “Gratitude 365”. Each box comes with pens and at least 365 slips of paper to write something for which you are grateful each day (health, music, family, feel good movies…the list is limitless). At the end of the year (or anytime you need a boost), take time to read them. Alone or with family, you will realize how blessed your year was. A sample of the boxes are below and they come in a variety of colors and designs. They will be available for purchase in the United States for now, beginning Monday, January 14th (ranging in price from $12 – $25). Start a new family tradition this year; one that can easily be carried on throughout the years and that can have a profound, positive impact on each person!
1 The Science Behind Gratitude (and How It Can Change Your Life). Derrick Carpenter, MAPP. Happily, Inc. 2019