Educating oneself to make gratitude mean something that cannot be taken for granted, and always eager to seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done is a matter of course. Everything originates in a spirit for the excellence, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion into clarity…. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.
What would your life be like if you made a conscious effort to experience gratitude each and every day? Even the Buddha preaches: “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” Take a moment and try this experiment:
Look around you. Be sure and notice all the imperfections. From right where you are sitting: look for the dirt, the disorder and dust. See all the things that need cleaning, repairing and replacing. Is the furniture you are sitting on old and run down? Is your computer not as fast as you would like it to be? Do you have a ton of time consuming e-mails that need answering? Is there a stack of bills waiting for you to pay them? Are you surrounded by clutter and chaos? If you are at work, are you under a deadline and stressed?
Take a moment and check in with how you are feeling and how your body is responding as you connect to what is wrong or missing in your world. Notice your breathing. Are your breaths short and shallow? Is your heart racing?
Now, look around and see the same area you just surveyed and find the good that these moments have inbuilt in them. If you are sitting in a chair, is it more comfortable than sitting on the floor? Do you have people in your life that care enough about you to send you e-mails in the first place? Yes, even those annoying forwarded jokes, chain letters or angels made out of plus and minus signs.
Look at the other objects around you may be taking for granted: the light at your desk that allows you to see, the window that brings sunlight into the room, the room you sit in that shelters you from the elements, the computer that gives you a window to the world, and the telephone or the internet that connects you to other people.
Are there things around you that give you pleasure to look at? Do you have a picture of a loved one near you or a photo of a wonderful sight you saw while on vacation? Is there a painting or poster that you enjoy looking at? When was the last time you really saw it? When was the last time you took a moment to appreciate colors?
Take a moment and check in with how you are feeling and how your body is responding as you connect with what is good and beautiful around you. Take a deep full breath and let yourself settle into a state of thankfulness.
When you focus on what is lacking or missing in your life you tap into scarcity and deprivation. When you focus on what you have, who is in your life and what is in your life, you tap into abundance and satisfaction. Each day is full of opportunities – for growth, for learning, for connection. Each day can be a gift. And each day we can give the gifts of love, compassion, service and laughter.
I am not suggesting that you deny the reality of your circumstances. I am suggesting a shift in perspective. Choose to see what is, rather than what isn’t in your life. Yes, a glass can be half empty. The glass can also be half full.
Why not give thanks every day of the year, in addition to the fourth Thursday in November? Are you grateful for all the moments of your life? What gifts of learning does each day offer you? Do you take the time to focus on gratitude for who and what you have in your life? Or do you focus on what you want, don’t have and is missing for you? What gifts have been given to you in this day? And what gifts (love, compassion, service, laughter) have you given to others?
Here’s a simple principle: The more you give thanks for what you have, the more you’ll have to be thankful for.
Gratitude is not complex. Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary. But this feeling is born only once you are willing to educate yourself to nurture it. It is not just educating yourself but also making sure that you effectively communicate it to others and show them the path to gratitude.
William James writes, “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” Appreciation is because of the gratitude expressed by someone else. The result is a harmony between minds and isn’t this what we are all looking for?
Written for PT Education