What are you grateful for?
Gratitude is a feeling of ongoing thankfulness for what you have and an expression of your dependence upon the contributions and conditions that make those blessings possible.
We have so much to be thankful for, but often take it all for granted. In many ways, we’re hardwired for thanklessness. We focus our mental energy on what we lack, not what we have. We value scarcity, so everyday miracles go unappreciated. We’re driven by our emotions, seesawing as expectations and conditions change. We take for granted things we knew before we could appreciate their implications. We compare ourselves to others, and get no joy from shared blessings. These hardwired biases mask the reality of our condition and make lasting gratitude difficult.
What do you have to be grateful for? You exist; most possible things never will. You exist now; most things that existed no longer do. You are a person, a spectacular manifestation of life, capable of thought, awareness, emotion, language, music, laughter, love, and a thousand other amazing things. You are fortunate beyond comprehension. Be grateful for the abundance all around you. Be grateful for good things that have happened and will happen, and bad things that haven’t happened and won’t happen. Be grateful for every day, every meal, every breath.
Be grateful because it’s justified, but also because it’s a powerful enabler of happiness and meaning. Gratitude fosters the good: joy, savoring, resilience, self-esteem, life satisfaction. It also pushes away the bad: greed, envy, bitterness, stress, depression. And its benefits extend beyond the self; it encourages friendliness, forgiveness, and compassion, fostering a deeper caring about others and a desire to act on that caring. In a hundred ways it reduces suffering and increases happiness and meaning for you and those around you.
Gratitude is a skill that requires practice to master. Fortunately, it’s very highly learnable, but takes effort, so be compassionate toward yourself if it doesn’t come naturally. Bring awareness to your blessings. Cultivate a sense of deep appreciation of how privileged you are. Notice what you take for granted, and stop. Welcome new blessings into your life; know that you deserve them. Feel gratitude, not just intellectually, but also emotionally. Expand what you consider worthy of gratitude: not just gifts other people generously gave you, but everything positive in your life, regardless of its source.
Feeling gratitude is the first step; the second is expressing it. Make gratitude an external process, not an internal state. Let your appreciation for ongoing blessings color your interactions with the world. Thank others for being a part of what’s good in your life. Let your gratitude motivate you to improve their lives, not out of a sense of obligation or debt but because your gifts are too valuable to be wasted.