“I live in the space of thankfulness – and I have been rewarded a million times over for it. I started out giving thanks for small things, and the more grateful I became, the more my bounty increased. That’s because what you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it. Opportunities, relationships and even money flowed my way when I learnt to be thankful no matter what happened in my life.”
– Oprah Winfrey
Gratitude. I thought I knew it. I thought I practised it – I was polite and said my thank you’s. And, because I thought I knew and practised it, I felt that life should be handing me a lot more ‘goodies’ than I was getting. And thinking in this way made me unhappy. Yes, I had it all wrong! My earlier understanding of gratitude is probably a good description of how not to practice gratitude : )
So here’s my take on gratitude now. First off, saying ‘thank you’ when someone does something nice is not necessarily gratitude. It could be more a case of good manners. With gratitude, it’s more about how you feel than what you say or do. It is also about feeling this way when you don’t even know who to thank. Gratitude is a way of living and being and not something you do just for a short few seconds on and off.
Another thing I failed to realise through all those years was that I had so much to be thankful for and I was not even noticing these things… they were always there and so, didn’t really jump out at me, but once I began to look, they were EVERYWHERE!
But here’s the really important thing: gratitude is a life-changer. It really has been for me. I didn’t really understand what other people meant when they wrote or spoke about gratitude being a life-changer. It was only after I had been practising gratitude on a daily basis for a few months that I finally ‘got’ what it was all about. I am by no means done. I am only just getting started. But what I have gained out of practising gratitude is HUGE compared to the time and the energy I have put in. It truly is life-changing. There is no better way to describe it.
I only started out learning about gratitude and how to apply it to daily life because I learned about the Law of Attraction (“that which is like unto itself is drawn”) and I saw it as a way to get more of life’s goodies. Yes, my motivation was ‘mercenary’ at that point. But what I have found is that, while it is entirely true that when you learn to give thanks for what you have, you end up receiving more things to be thankful for, that is now just a sort of ‘by product’ for me. This is because, I found that when practising gratitude consistently and really feeling the emotion, it just made me feel so good and happy inside – where I already was. I didn’t necessarily need more goodies. I was already feeling happy and satisfied. That to me was the biggest lesson in all of this.
Since I first learned about the role that gratitude plays in happiness and in creating a life filled with more of what you want, I have been led to a few other ideas relating to gratitude that I would like to share with you. These ideas helped me get even clearer about what gratitude really is and how I could apply it to my life in a more effective way. I came to this new understanding through listening and reading to the teachings of Abraham (Abraham and Hicks) and here are some of the things I learned:
- Gratitude is not necessarily about feeling indebted and carrying a burden of any sort.
- Gratitude is not about living in fear that what you have will be taken from you if you don’t give thanks for it (although this could happen).
- Gratitude is not about putting yourself in the place of others who don’t have what you do (although you could, if you wanted to).
- Gratitude is not about holding on to the struggles that you have been through in order to get what you now have
- Gratitude is not about killing desire for new or improved conditions (it is okay to want more, but not in a way that it makes you feel discomfort at not having it right now).
- Gratitude is mostly about actively looking for and taking note of all the things you now have that serve you and feel good to you
- You can be happy where you are and still be eager (not anxious) for the good things that are yet to come to you
For the above reasons, Abraham prefers to use the word ‘appreciation’ over gratitude and based on my current understanding (including all those things that gratitude is ‘not’) it makes sense to me. Therefore, gratitude and appreciation have now come to mean the same thing to me.
So how does one ‘practice’ gratitude? I’ll tell you how I did it – I started out just writing 10 things that I was thankful for every night before I went to bed (Rhonda Byrne’s book ‘The Magic’ really helped me get started). I started out with things that had happened on that day, but the list slowly grew to include things like my good health and family and so on (It doesn’t really matter if some of the same things come up day after day). After a while, it became easy for me to list way more than 10 things and so I did. In time, I came to notice so many other things to be thankful for and it just gained a momentum of its own. For instance, when I walk down my neighbourhood, I now notice all the beautiful houses and gardens I pass, I realise how safe and clean it is and so on. When I eat, I really enjoy my food now. When I turn on a tap, I realise how wonderful it is to have running water… and on it goes…
This way of seeing things has slowly become ‘my usual way’ of seeing things. It’s almost like I was living in black and white could suddenly see in full colour. The change wasn’t that quick or as dramatic, but looking back, this is what it has been, in effect.
In many ways, giving thanks and appreciating the good in my life has been like exercising regularly. Yes, you ‘do it’ and you feel something at the time, but you also become conditioned and trained so that you enjoy its benefits even when you are not ‘doing’ it and it just becomes a way of living.
So there you have it: gratitude – a life-changer of a habit and a sure-fire way to bring more happiness into your life.
I’ve put together a simple ‘gratitude journal’ to help you on your way. You need to download it and then print it out.
You can download it by clicking here (opens a new page) and then going to ‘file’ and ‘download’. It may take a few moments, so please allow some time.
You will need Adobe Reader in order to view or print the file. You can get Adobe Reader by clicking here.