Saturday thoughts: Gratitude as the key to happiness

Saturday, 21 June 2014

We all have things that make us happy. For me, it's coffee, travel, spending time with loved ones, curling up with a cup of tea, working on my blog and reading other blogs, and beautiful-smelling candles (to name a few). For someone else it might be a great pair of shoes or a new bag, or maybe faded photographs from their childhood and trinkets they've collected over the years, or perhaps getting the grade they've been aiming for at school or running a mile faster than they did the week before.

But it's not the things themselves that make us happy. Rather, what makes us happy is our appreciation, our gratitude, towards them. Without that, these things would mean nothing. They would just be things with little real value to us, and any happiness we get from them would be short-lived, vanishing as the novelty wears off. However, if we learn to appreciate everything we are presented with - material things, events, people, memories, feelings, words - life will start to feel more and more like a blessing. When we treat everything in life as a gift, and we express gratitude towards everything as such, we become much happier. And when I say 'everything', I mean everything. We can express gratitude to the smallest and the biggest things, and the things we would often take for granted, one of which is life itself. Life is something many of us give little thought to day-to-day, but really it's the biggest gift of all, and perhaps the one we ought to be most grateful for, as without life, there would be no other gifts. Without life, we wouldn't be able to experience emotions and feelings. Without life, we wouldn't be able to walk or talk or laugh or smile. Without life, we wouldn't be able to see or taste or touch or smell. Without life, we wouldn't be able to do or have or see the things that make us happy. Without life, we wouldn't exist, and none of the things we value would be available to us. This is why life is something we should be grateful for each and every day. We should wake up each morning thankful for the fact that we are here and we exist and we are alive. We should thank the universe or the gods or science for the fact that we have life, and for the possibilities and opportunities it opens up to us

This grateful outlook can even help us when it feels like we have little to be grateful for. Whenever we feel dissatisfied with our lives, when we feel that they lack certain things or that they would be better if they were different, shifting our focus from what we feel our lives lack to what they're rich in can help us realise that although things may not be as they would be in an 'ideal world', we still have an awful lot to be grateful for.

There are times when I slip into a negative mindset and start to dwell on things I might want to change or things I wish were different, but over the last year or so I've learned that the best way to remedy this is to remind myself of all the things I have to be grateful for, then look at the issue more objectively. If it's something I can change, then I can start taking steps to do so, if not, I can simply accept it, let it go and focus my attention and energy on all the things I have to be thankful for.

Practicing gratitude is such a simple thing and its impact is often greatly underestimated, but if you're willing to give a little time and effort to it and push yourself to be grateful even when it seems difficult, it can dramatically improve your frame of mind and general mood, and in time you'll find it gets easier to guide yourself back towards gratitude whenever you start to drift, and that the more grateful you are, the happier you become.



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