Why give Gratitude?
A lot has been written on gratitude. There are plenty of scientific papers telling us how there is proof that having an attitude of gratitude can help with mental health, depression and our every day lives.
From a personal perspective, it reminds me of the small things in life that we take for granted and that is why I’m writing this article.
Seating at the table with the MacBook in front of me, the most dominant thought in my mind when it comes to gratitude is water. For most of us we take this liquid that makes up about 80% of body for granted, never realising the processes it has to go through to get to our tap so it’s drinkable.
And that’s the other point – all we have to do is turn the tap and water flows freely, drinkable and at hand. It’s not like this all over the world. What amazes me is that we live in the 21st century and there are people around the world with difficulties getting this source of life. I’ve seen it first hand and I always remember to say thank you for this simple but so needed source.
Gratitude isn’t about saying thank you for the sake of saying it. It’s about connecting emotionally with the idea. It reminds us of what we have and what we can be thankful for. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek for more in our lives.
There’s an old saying, “Be grateful for what you have”. I recall hearing this in the past but it was always with a negative connotation. It was meant to imply, “Be grateful for what you have because you might loose it”. That is reasonable enough, because the possibility is always there that we can loose something that we hold dear.
It can mean a person, it can mean an object. Either way being grateful for it gives that person or that thing more value and importance to our life.
On the other hand, “Be grateful for what you have”, can also be seen as a positive affirmation. Being grateful for the things and the people that make our lives richer and more beautiful.
Being grateful for what we have is not about saying thank you for what we have in the hope that we don’t loose it. It’s about being grateful for what we have and knowing that this attitude of gratitude opens our minds to greater opportunities, to invite better thing into our lives. This is not the reason for gratitude but it is an effect of the thankfulness that we hold for everything in our daily lives.
The pen and the paper
Whilst writing in my journal the other day, I suddenly became aware of the paper I was writing on. The paper I was holding. Everything on my desk suddenly started to take on a different life of it’s own, a new perspective opening itself up to me.
We don’t think about what is around us on a daily basis and we fail to appreciate that somewhere in the world, there is a person in some type of assembly line, putting the spring in the retractable pen you hold, making sure that the machine blades to cut the paper are aligned correctly, the fuel pipe that’s getting fitted to your vehicle is correctly placed.
Henry Ford may have created the assembly line, but I don’t think that even he realised what he had truly created.
It was a deep and profound feeling of gratitude and thankfulness for each person in that chain of events that made it possible for me to be able to have a written gratitude journal.
If you were to look around you now, consider all the objects that you use daily, small and big, that make your life easier. Isn’t that reason enough to be grateful to people you will probably never meet?
The feeling of gratitude
Science has shown that gratitude brings with it a lot of benefits to our health, physical and mental. Gratitude is a sense of giving us a different perspective to an otherwise difficult situation. It can alter our mental perception which can influence the way we feel about a situation.
It may not take us from a feeling of sadness to one of joy, but it will give us a sense of love. Let me explain.
My dad passed away a few years back and I miss his presence dearly. In particular the snippets of sarcasm from one to another. We were both soldiers and that brought us closer together, not only in sharing the sense of duty but also the military banter. I decided to be thankful for those times and even though he is no longer around, the depth of feeling I feel when I say thanks for the time we did have together, feels me with feelings of love, gratitude and something of a connection I cannot express in words.
Not in the sense that I feel his presence but I feel the love, the joy, the happiness. All that by simply saying “thank you for the times together” in a gratitude journal.
Gratitude isn’t about repressing the sadness, the loss, or any other negative feeling. It is about focussing on the good, the joy, the thankfulness.
The free gifts we forget
We take for granted the gifts that were given to us at birth and sometimes completely neglect them. It’s not our fault, to start with. It’s the way that society and our environment are that causes this.
I’m referring to our mind. You’ve been using it partly consciously, partly unconsciously whilst reading this article. Consciously to make sense of the words I write, unconsciously because you can already read and put the sentences together. But we do take it for granted.
It’s the tool that James Allen talked about in “As a man thinketh”, that ethereal thing we call the mind that, although untouchable, has been the source of creation of so many things around you. And we take it for granted, never realising that it is the source and the reason for our lives.
Gratitude creates new neural pathways in the brain and consequently opens our mind to new perspectives, new opportunities. And that is by simply saying thank you on a daily basis.
A gift from me to you
At the front of my journal I have a few quotes from books and speeches that I read before I start writing. It primes my mind, even though thinking of my dad is enough to kickstart the emotions and the process. I would like to share three of those with you and hopefully, if you haven’t started a journal already, you will do so now.
Remember, doing this is a habit. Do it daily. Personally I recommend keeping a written journal. As you write the emotions are maintained longer and you see what you write about.
Also, rather than just saying thank you, also write why you are thankful – give the thing you are thankful for meaning, give it substance.
Be grateful. It opens your eyes to the world in a way you could never have imagined.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
The whole process of mental adjustment and atonement can be summed up in one word – Gratitude.
Wallace D. Wattles
Say thank you in advance for what is already yours. True desire in the heart, for anything good, is God’s proof to you, sent beforehand, to indicate that it’s yours already.