The importance of gratitude
A common conundrum in today’s world is feeling unfulfilled, even though, ironically, we seem to have more choices available to us than ever before. We can purchase pretty much whatever we want on Amazon and have it available at our doorstep instantly. We continually have a variety of food, clothing, entertainment, travel destinations, etc at our fingertips. We can swipe our iPhone and connect to friends and family instantly; the list goes on and on.
Why is it that, with so many options, we still aren’t happy? Feeling fulfilled is appreciating all that is good in our lives. It is about being thankful for what we have, not focusing on what we think we might be lacking.
As an American, I always look forward to the end of November, when we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. While I most certainly enjoy the food, festivities, and time with loved ones, what I love most is that it is a holiday solely dedicated to giving thanks. It is a time to reflect on the many wonderful things we have in our lives and just how fortunate we truly are. Even those of us who haven’t had the best of years can express gratitude for something.
So, how can we follow the example of this annual tradition of giving thanks and extend it to our daily lives?
Be grateful for what you already have
When you practice gratitude, you’ll see just how much you have. So many of us are immersed in our fast-paced daily lives, always moving from one thing to the next, that we have developed the habit of always reaching for something. What that something is we don’t even always know. It can feel like a sense of emptiness that needs to be filled.
We are on autopilot, seeking the next best thing, and then we will be happy.
While advances in technology are generally a positive thing, it has created a culture of constantly replacing what is in front of us, even if it works just fine. What would life look like if we didn’t upgrade to the next version of the iPhone as soon as it is available? This isn’t to say we shouldn’t have goals and enjoy the finer things in life - it is simply a reminder that we already have so much to be happy about that we should enjoy what we do have before looking to trade it in.
You can start the habit of gratitude by focusing on one thing each day that you appreciate. Keep it simple. I started practising gratitude by appreciating my morning run along the river. Being goal-oriented, when running I typically focused on my pace and how many miles I was logging. I decided to abandon this habit one day and just focus on my breathing and being out in nature. After finishing, I felt much more fulfilled than I did in a long time, by just enjoying what was around me.
Pay attention to all that goes well in your life
Stop and think about it. How much goes well during your typical day that could go wrong? Your alarm clock goes off, you have hot water, your car starts, you have your morning latte, all before 9 am. It is only when something goes wrong that we spend hours complaining. We curse the thing that failed us instead of thanking all the things that went well.
If you live or work in London, you’ll see this a lot if you ride on the Tube. The moment there is a train delay (even if it is a matter of minutes), look around and you’ll see people grumbling. I have been guilty of it. However, how often do we express gratitude for the Tube? Yes, I’m serious. This miraculous transportation allows millions of people to get across miles of London in 30 minutes. That is no small feat.
Begin by shifting your perspective. Think of those black and white images that, depending on the viewer, can be seen as completely different images. Why not change your lens to see the brighter picture?
Gratitude takes practice. It is like a muscle that needs to be exercised frequently to see the benefits. Start by finding one thing each day to smile about. It could be that the sun is shining; it could be that you slept well - just find something. We often expect things to go our way that we don’t always recognise that it is a blessing. Over time, you will start to naturally be filled thanks for all the wonderful things you have in your life.
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