Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s November and Thanksgiving is coming, but I seem to be seeing and hearing a lot about gratitude lately. A friend was recently telling me how thankful she has been feeling, and she doesn’t really know why.
“It’s not like I am someone who is always grateful, and I am definitely not someone who is always ungrateful. But lately, I just seem to be really appreciating people and things in my life, and I can’t quite figure out why. I don’t know what has changed.”
She went on to tell me how she recently sent a note to an old boss thanking him for his support when she resigned. She told her best friend how much she really cherishes her even though that’s not something they generally express. She also said some nice things to me showing that she appreciates and values me. Beyond that, she’s more thankful for her family, her dog, her home, and her career. This made me start to think – what is it that makes us feel gratitude?
Gratitude = Happiness
Gratitude can affect the amount of happiness you feel. When you appreciate the people and things around you, it’s hard to be unhappy. And, your gratitude creates happiness in other people, too. The more you share your gratitude, the more you make people happy. The more you make people happy, the more they will share that happiness and gratitude, too. So, perhaps gratitude comes from being happy. Think about the times you have been most grateful – are you generally happy at that time? Probably. Are you happy because you are grateful, or grateful because you are happy? (It’s kind of like the chicken and the egg, isn’t it?)
And, what about when you are unhappy? When you think about it, do you generally feel grateful when you are angry or depressed? No. Probably not. Does that mean you can’t be grateful if you are not happy? Hhhmmm… well, I know this – when you are unhappy, if you stop and think about the good things and people in your life, you will become happier. There have actually been several studies that prove this to be true. Try it. Next time you are angry or upset, stop and truly think about all the good things in your life. At first, if you are really upset, it may be hard to acknowledge those things, but if you drop your guard and focus you will find many good things in your life for which to be thankful.
Practice right now. Make a list of what you have in your life for which you are grateful. Maybe it’s your spouse, the fact that you have a car, you have a place to live, a good friend or two, you had fun times growing up, you are able to pay your bills, your creativity, your intelligence, your sense of humor, your _____________. You finish the list! Keep that list nearby so that when you are feeling down you can refer to it and remember all the good things and/or people surrounding you. There REALLY is a lot to be thankful for, and the more we each recognize this, the more good things we will have in our lives. That’s why gratitude is SO important, and so powerful – the more you appreciate, the more you will have.
As for my friend, I don’t know exactly why she is suddenly feeling grateful, but I am thankful she shared it with me!