When life’s knocked you around a bit, when you’ve seen a few things and time has happened and you’ve got some years under your belt, you start to think more highly of modest things like flowers and a pretty sky or just a morning when nothing’s gone wrong and everyone’s been pretty nice to everyone else and things are pretty nice and it’s coming up to eleven or twelve o’clock and things are going well and you think – that’s nice. No one’s died, everyone’s ok. It makes you a little bit more modest. –Alain de Botton in conversation with Tim Ferris on the Tim Ferris Show Podcast
Hands up if you can relate to these wise words spoken by one of modern day’s most esteemed philosophers? I certainly can. For me, my mindset changed when I was about twenty-one years old. I became far more grateful. I’d had a turbulent few years where things had got pretty bleak and at times I’d sunk low. Yet when I finally rose to the surface once more everything looked more beautiful than before. I appreciated every little thing that made the world good and people happy and healthy. This gratitude gave me peace, humility, positivity and opened my eyes to see the brightest way forward. I think, as Alain de Botton puts it, you have to have been knocked around a bit, seen a few things and have some years under your belt to truly be aware of just how miraculous life is and all the little things that can make it so wonderful. And when you do, that’s the essence of living. Gratitude is an attitude that allows you to live fully in the present and never take things for granted.
The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power. (health.harvard.eu)
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Gratitude is being talked about a lot right now since many people are overwhelmed by the stress of over-stimulation and gratitude is a powerful way to combat it. Even New York Times bestselling author A.J. Jacobs decided to write a book about it entitled “Thanks a Thousand“. Jacobs decided to thank every single person involved in producing his morning cup of coffee. The resulting journey taking him across the globe, transforming his life, and revealing secrets about how gratitude can make us all happier, more generous, and more connected.By thanking the people involved in creating his daily cuppa face to face, Jacobs affirms the scientific research on gratitude is true. It improves compassion, heals your body, and helps battle depression. The book is a beautiful reminder to consider the team VS just ourselves, why we shouldn’t take things for granted and how gratitude can make us happier, kinder, and more impactful.
Last week was thanksgiving, one of the most celebrated holidays there is and for good reason. Why not take it as a cue to practise gratitude on a daily basis. For me I am constantly mindful of the good things in life no matter how small. I know that a smile can make someone’s day, or a random act of kindness like helping an elderly person in the cold rain with their bags as I did the other day. At night before I go to sleep I also write down three things that have happened that day for which I’m especially grateful for. This practise gives me a deeper awareness of all the good things that are happening which I might, had I not written it down, overlooked.
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Images by Oda Beide