Here we are at November already and that means a focus on gratitude. I’m not going to get in to the whole historical significance of the the Thanksgiving holiday, I just think it’s a great opportunity to remind ourselves how much we have to be grateful for. So, I hereby declare November: Gratitude Month!
In the first of four articles on gratitude this month, let’s look at just exactly what gratitude is and why I consider it one tool in your mindfulness toolkit. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor of Psychology and author of “The How of Happiness” summarizes it perfectly when she said “Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry, and irritation. It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is present-oriented.” Present-oriented. Hmm, sound familiar?
A way of living
Gratitude is way of living, a state of being in which you open yourself up to receive good things. It’s a willingness to receive abundance. And when you do receive those very good things, you instictively and consistently give thanks.
Gratitude becomes a habit – you take in something good and you breathe out gratitude:
Receive → Be Grateful → Receive → Be Grateful … and so on.
A beautiful cycle and a powerful way to live. A life of gratefulness for all things that come our way.
A recognition of receiving
Gratitude comes from the recognition that you have received good things, you did not create these things yourself. They came from outside of you – from a friend, from the universe, from a complete stranger.
Because you received something form outside of yourself, it means you did not make it, but rather someone gave you something.
So, don’t confuse this receiving with earning something. When we work hard to create something, we can say that we earned it. Gratitude, on the other hand, comes when we receive something that we have not earned. Gratitude is in response to gifts.
In order to be grateful, you must regularly recognize when you have been given good things. When you look around and see when good has been done for you, that is when you can begin the path towards a grateful life.
One of the great powers of gratitude is that it connects you to something larger than yourself – to other people, to nature, to a higher power.
An affirmation of goodness
When we live in gratitude, we recognize that we have received something freely and that thing we received is very good. It’s like a magnifying glass that helps us notice the good things in our life and minimizes the things that bring us down. Gratitude enables us to see just how many good things we have in our everyday lives, the little things along with the big. When we have gratitude, we are content.
The opposites of Gratitude
To gain a better understanding of just what gratitude is, let’s look at the opposites:
The good news is that you can’t feel gratitude and be in any of those states at the same time. Gratitude is exclusive that way. It expands and leaves no room for anything else. You have no space to complain or be angry or frustrated. You only have room for gratitude.
And what a great way to live your life.
Next week, we’ll take a look at the power of gratitude, how gratitude leads to a more meaningful life.