If we want deeper peace and joy, expanding our practice of gratitude is the best way to find it.
Gratitude is a form of receiving–a powerful way to take in and acknowledge the beauty and love that is all around us. This is why it is such an antidote to unhappiness. Despite the adversity and pain that are woven into our lives, we all have genuine blessings to be grateful for—realities that we are not entitled to that make our lives richer than they would otherwise be.
It is so easy to live in dissatisfaction, but doing so robs us of joy. It’s a very human inclination to fixate on what we lack and what went wrong relative to our expectations. While it may be intuitive to do this, it sucks the joy out of life—even as our complaints and protestations masquerade as the pursuit of better.
It’s normal to meet dissatisfaction with frustration and entitlement. But when we respond as if we’re owed good things, it trains us to see everything as insufficient. It fills every moment with the awareness of what it isn’t, every relationship with the awareness of what it lacks.
This is such a hard way to live!
Not only does our entitlement distort our ability to see the beauty in our immediacy, it leads us to feel constant frustration when life and relationships refuse to yield to our demands. Our ingratitude in the face of what is leads us to less happiness, not more.
The reality is, we are all beggars. The world is unfair and can be unkind to all of us.
We left the Garden of Eden for a broken world. One that is full of adversity. When we can accept this fact, we paradoxically begin to see more beauty around us—we stop focusing on what life is not, and begin to perceive the miraculousness of what it is.
Simply being alive and experiencing anything at all, is an incredible gift. Waking up each day is not a given. Each morning presents us with another gifted opportunity to see, feel, and experience all that the day has to offer. Keep in mind the sobering reality that not everyone who experienced yesterday will get to experience today—and there are no guarantees of a tomorrow for any of us.
And acknowledging the simple and precious realities around us–the middle-of-the-night smile from a well-fed baby, the well-timed reassurance from an observant stranger, the dishwasher that allows us greater freedom—is what will increase our happiness. Acknowledgement fills our hearts and expands our capacity to cherish not only our imperfect lives, but also flawed people we share them with, and our beautiful, broken world as a whole.
The gifts in our lives can so quickly fade to the background. But, spend a moment and think how devastated you would be if you were to lose tomorrow the comforts and relationships that sustain you today.
Gratitude is the practice of seeing truthfully, seeing wisely.
Creating a practice of contemplating and acknowledging your blessings will make you happier and even physically healthier. So take a moment now and consider the things that you are grateful for. Things that you may have taken for granted but that really make a difference to you. Write them down. Then go a step further and tell the people around you that you are grateful for them, and why. How do they make a difference in your life? Let them know. Write a text or, better yet, pick up the phone and call. Doing so will bless them and your relationship with them, it will expand your heart and make you more whole. Openly expressing gratitude will bring you joy and increase your ability to see the abundant beauty around you.
What a wonderful virtue that our tradition of Thanksgiving points us towards.