“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank you and grow” - Shauna Niequist
One of the greatest components of building a happy life is gratitude. No matter how fast paced or unmanageable our lives may feel, it’s important to take a few minutes out of each day and find something to be grateful for. It’s amazing how generating a mental gratitude list can snap you out of a funk, and it’s almost guaranteed to make you feel positive once you’re done! As with most things, the hardest part is getting started.
When you’re in a difficult or trying place in life, starting a gratitude list may seem pointless or like a waste of time. Put these negative thoughts aside, even if only for a minute at first. Start with the very basic elements, no matter how “obvious” or “silly” they may seem at first. For instance, being thankful for: your life, the opportunity for the blank slate of a new day, your family, your friends, the sun, the earth, the ocean, rain, modern technology- anything that surrounds you or makes you happy. You can be grateful for a certain childhood memory or a favorite book. And, if you really want to dig deep into the core of gratitude and it’s potential for happiness, express gratitude for your adversities and obstacles. Pain is temporary, after all, and challenges offer an opportunity for growth. They are merely a push in the right direction, a catalyst for action that we may not take if left to our own devices. And, once the challenge is overcome, are we not often the better people because of it? Even sadness is worthy of gratitude, because without it, what would we have to compare happiness with?
Mentally listing what you are grateful for is a great way to start your day, but there’s even more work that you can do! Gratitude is an action word. It is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” There are three verbs in this definition: “being,” “show” and “return.” The quote at the beginning of the post also emphasizes the action-oriented nature of gratitude: it’s a matter of saying “thank you AND “ celebrating or “thank you AND” growing. The work begins with a thank you, but ends with an action.
This means gratitude is more than a mere feeling, or saying “Thank you” to the open air (although it’s a great start). If you have specific people in your gratitude list, make sure to take some time to thank them in person, if you can. I’m sure they would love to hear it, and it will make you feel good, too. As William Arthur Ward points out, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Expression can, and often does, involve simply telling a person, “Hey, thank you for being in my life!”
Some final food for thought as you pave your way to happiness through gratitude: “It is not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy.” No matter where you are in your journey, whether you feel that life has given you a bounty of lemons or that it has backed you into a temporary corner, say thank you and be happy!