No wonder Meister Eckhart said “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.”
Yet, many people find it hard to say thank you because of societal problems, financial challenges, marital crisis and what have you. Despite the challenges we all face daily, I’ve learnt and accepted that we can say thank you because there are many things to be grateful for (there’s always a silver lining during a storm and you can spot it if you commit to finding it).
I used to complain but since I started developing the attitude of gratitude, I’ve experienced tremendous happiness and I can boldly say being grateful is one of the keys to happiness. I’ve gone from being a nagging wife to a pleasurable one; I’ve gone from complaining about my kids to being grateful for having them; I’ve gone from complaining about hitches in my business to being grateful that I have a business in the first place as many people are not privileged to have one. I can go on and on but one thing is sure: the attitude of gratitude has transformed my life and I’m eternally grateful.
What is Gratitude?
Did I hear you ask, what is gratitude? Well, it’s being appreciative for what you term the ‘tiniest’ blessings of life. It’s being thankful even through tough times. It’s being grateful on a daily basis and not just because a goal you were looking up to achieving became reality.
A Pastor recently told me of an old woman who’ll come up to testify every Sunday (during service) just for the pleasures of sleeping and waking, walking and eating, breathing and thinking, etc. And I said to myself ‘this is the right way to express gratitude.’ Gratitude should not be expressed only when you buy a car you’ve always desired or only when you graduate successfully from College. It should be a daily exercise.
Still talking about what gratitude is, an un-attributed quote offers a succinct response: “Gratitude consists of being more aware of what you have, than what you don’t.”
Yet, our society fans the embers of the things we don’t have and programs us to think we’re no good because we don’t have them. Talk about programming to keep buying and incurring debt, even though our happiness does not consist in the things we buy or possess. Rather, it lies within us. Yes, gratitude already lies within us, we just have to make up our minds to give life to it by being grateful for each day we live, being grateful for our good health (as some people are not so lucky), being grateful for our spouses and kids, etc.
Benefits of the Attitude of Gratitude
- Gratitude will make you a more positive person. Negativity will no longer hold sway in your life as you’ll constantly see the good in what people term the bad.
- The attitude of gratitude will strengthen your relationship with your spouse, friends, family, kids and all you come across.
- The attitude of thankfulness will lead us into abundance and this is buttressed by Anthony Robbins: “When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”
- An appreciative attitude can helps us get over stressful situations and depression.
- A grateful heart is like a magnet that draws in the things we desire into our lives. No wonder Dr Michael Beckwith said: “You cannot bring anything new into your life until you are grateful for what you have now.”
- In general, the attitude of happiness will bring you happiness that you can in turn share with others.
7 Steps to Developing the Attitude of Gratitude
- Decide to be Grateful from today. If you think gratitude will come from your next car or HDTV purchase, you’re dead wrong! It already lies within you; you just have to activate it by intentionally deciding to be grateful from this minute!
- Learn to Count your Blessings. A new day, excellent health status, a roof over your head, a loving spouse, a child in your life, a special talent or skill, etc are all reasons for you to be grateful. When you spend a quiet moment each day to recognise this, your heart and life becomes transformed instantly. Irving Berlin supports this: “Got no checkbooks, got no banks. Still I’d like to express my thanks – I got the sun in the mornin’ and the moon at night.” Awesome, if you ask me! Most times we concentrate on the things we don’t have but Irving is saying what of the sun in the morning and the moon by night? If we have them, we have something.
- Train Yourself to Notice the Good. No matter how tough situations might be, I can boldly say you can spot one or two good things if you commit to finding them out. For instance, a friend has just died and you’re trying to cope with the grief; if you look well enough, you’d realise that your friend could have been hospitalized for months with the attendant trauma for loved ones as well as huge hospital bills. Instantly, you’d realise and be grateful that your friend was spared the agony and pain of lying in hospital for months while the family was spared the trauma of seeing a loved one slip through their hands into the other side of eternity.
- Take your Focus Away from the things you Don’t Have. To be grateful, yu have to take your eyes away from the things you don’t have; concentrate your thoughts on the things you have. Just like the anonymous quote I earlier shared stated: “Gratitude consists of being more aware of what you have, than what you don’t.”
- Choose your friends and associates wisely. ‘Show me your friend and I’ll show you who you are’, I’m sure you have heard this saying somewhere. If you’re trying to get into the gratitude mode and you move with friends who’re always complaining, you can endanger your new-found habit. The best way is to watch who you move with and ensure they’re positive people who believe in gratitude and practice it.
- Write a Gratitude Journal. One of the best ways to develop the habit of gratitude is to write a journal. Your journal can be in a notebook or online. You can update it every morning (I think this exercise is best done in the mornings or right before you retire for the day), weekly or monthly. It all depends on you but I believe doing it daily would help.
- Consider Millions of People Who’re Not as Privileged as You. Statistics say almost half the world population (more than 2.8 billion people) live on less than $2.50 a day while 1.1 billion people have insufficient access to clean water. Another 2.6 billion are said to lack basic hygiene while UNICEF says 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. How about that for food for thought? Be grateful as you think about these facts and look for a way to help the unprivileged.
Summary and Action TakeAway
Being grateful is an attitude we must cultivate and to jolt people up few years ago, Will Bowen, a Kansas City minister, initiated a challenge which involved people going for 21 days without complaining, gossiping or criticizing. Several people participated in the challenge and wore a purple No-Complaint wristband. If you decide to personally take the challenge, since experts say it takes 21 days to get a new habit fully incorporated into your life, I also think you need a reminder. It can be a wall frame with the word gratitude or a chain on your neck. Just go for any reminder that suits your personality. But, make sure you take the challenge for 21 days and even if you slip, dust yourself from the ground and keep moving. Afterall, you’re human but that is no excuse for not taking the challenge. So dear friend, are you in?