Why Gratitude Matters, A Lot, And How To Cultivate It
Are you in love with your life? Like utterly, completely, and undeniably? If your answer isn’t a whole-hearted, uncompromised yes, then please know this: you deserve to be and you can be. And cultivating an attitude of gratitude might be the fastest and most sustainable route to get you there.
“Good thing, bad thing, who knows?” This little six-word sentence is part of a narrative I remind myself of many times over as I go about my days. I first encountered it when told by one of my favorite teachers, Dr. Srikumar Rao.
In the narrative, a farmer keeps encountering situations that seem either fortunate or unfortunate at first but keep leading to yet another twist of events, and yet another. It illustrates how only our thoughts about any situation, incident or accident, make us experience it as either “good” or “bad.”
Come what may, I’ll be grateful, is the decision I made based on my understanding of that story. It changed both my outlook on life and the life I’m actually living quicker than anything else I tried before.
What’s to love, here and now?
As of recently, I meet more and more people who proclaim almost instantly when they meet me: “I love your life!” But just like anyone else I, too, am still discovering how to make everything work out well for me. Or how to keep it that way.
I am still figuring out how to create and maintain relationships that are important to me, for instance, which people to allow into my life and which to let go of, how to handle my finances responsibly, and so on.
So the first time a newfound friend told me he loved my life, I was short of words. Sure, I was humbled and agreed to feel the same way, but it also daunted me: is this person in front of me in love with his own life too?
When I pose this question to anyone, I often receive a list of stressors in response: things they dislike about their lives and all of their perceived limitations. Like a shortage of time, for instance, a lack of resources, too many responsibilities, bills to pay, families to take care of, and the list goes on and on.
All of these things would make it impossible for them, or so they say, to create a life of their liking in the same way I am. In their eyes, I have none of these “limitations.”
“But then tell me,” I’d reply, “what do you like about your life? What are you grateful for?”
Luckily, without exception, the people I meet are of the fortunate kind able to come up with more than one thing.
“But who focuses on that? And how is noting this going to help me overcome the obstacles I’m facing?” you might wonder.
It all starts with counting your blessings
On the surface being appreciative may not seem like the fastest route to change your life around. But as I have been practicing it more and more over the past few years, I believe it has the potential to make a huge difference. For the
And when you get into the habit of being thankful, you’ll want to expand your blessings. Naturally. Not only by creating more to be grateful for but also by sharing that what you already have with others.
But how often do we consciously stop to enjoy feelings of gratitude? And what then do we end up sharing with the people in our lives?
Gratitude; nothing can be satisfactory if nothing is
It seems to be much more common to focus most (if not all) of our energy on the things and experiences we perceive as “bad”, “negative”, or “limiting.” An unhealthy work-life balance, a dissatisfying love life, some physical ailments, whatever it may be. And it is easy to keep looking at these things, situations, or experiences over and over in dissatisfaction, wondering why this has to be our predicament.
But whatever we seek, unless we approach that which we do have already with an attitude of gratitude, chances are slim we’ll be able to turn things around. Especially since the
For the longest time, I approached my life in this way too: focusing on that which was not of my liking, trying to dissect and analyze (again and again) why it was the way it was, wondering how come I couldn’t change it. Many circumstances have left me feeling stuck, miserable, stressed, and at some point, even depressed.
Don’t deny the problem but focus on the solution
I’ve come to discover, however, that what we focus on is what remains. Whether we like it or not. So why not focus on the things that are already making us happy, right here where we are?
I also learned there isn’t a problem in the world that someone else isn’t also facing. Know you don’t have to fight any battle alone if you don’t want to. And for every problem, there’s also someone out there who knows how to solve it or make it bearable.
Are you zooming in on problems or opportunities? And who would you rather speak with: those who share your problems and didn’t find their way out or those who did? Choose your focus wisely.
How to be grateful on the daily
Each night before I go to bed I list three things I‘m grateful for, and when I wake up I jot down a few more. I’d love to encourage you to start doing the same. Don’t overthink it but truly feel
I am so grateful and thankful for the journey I’m on right now. But I often don’t have a clue as to where it may lead either. I don’t know whether my undertakings will be successful or not. I don’t know whether I’ll rise like never before or fall back into any of the traps that I (mentally) created for myself in the past. We never stop learning.
But what I’m absolutely sure of is this: there’s nothing that can’t be overcome if we’re willing to open our minds to new opportunities.
I will remind myself to be grateful every step of the way and this is how I know that whatever happens, I’ll be OK. Regardless of the outcome of any of my endeavors.