The year is quickly coming to a close. Dr. Steve suggests giving yourself a year-end gift and make a list of everything for which you are grateful.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, [and] confusion into clarity . . . . It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melodie Beattie
Here we are at year’s end. Just a few more days now, and as I look back over the year and my biggest thanks is for my wife. She loves, challenges and inspires me. My wife is a wise woman who knows when to push and when to hold back. She accepts me with all my faults. She is a spiritual person who brings grace and a thirst for the divine into our relationship. For all these things, and more, I give thanks and have gratitude.
But what is gratitude and why is it important?
Gratitude is defined as being thankful, appreciative, and having an inclination to return kindness. When we take a minute to count our blessings we turn our mind to what we have, not what is missing.
Being in a state of appreciation enhances our mood. Even though having gratitude is often conceptualized as a selfless act, the universe responds in kind and returns the kindness. Being grateful feels good!
Living with gratitude in our heart is living life consciously and with appreciation. Fortunes come and go, jobs are lost and friends die. And yet, we have many blessings around us all the time.
It is easy to forget our blessings, much less count them when we are in the midst of a tragedy or lost in the eternal rat race of life. If we forget the wealth that really matters we are impoverished in our souls and become boring to our friends.
Having gratitude reminds us of the infinite abundance that is available if we but stop and peer inside our hearts and acknowledge both the simple and profound riches that envelop us like a blanket of glittering jewels. These jewels are different for everyone, but might include friends, loved ones, family, health, the earth, the stars, wild animals, or your pet cat.
Being in a state of gratitude increases appreciation for life itself. When we are in such a state, life looks different. You begin to see the miracles in everyday events; the way your muscles work, the taste of food, and the colors of a rainbow. These events and processes are going on continually and we take them for granted as if they were so much background information – to be ignored unless pointed out.
Cultivating a grateful state of mind is like any good habit. It takes practice. If you already have a daily practice of prayer or meditation, adding in a few moments of gratitude for what you have should be easy enough.
If you don’t have such a discipline, before going to sleep, you might want to say to yourself, or out loud, what you are grateful for. It will remind you of what you do have and change your mood for the better. You will fall asleep easily with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
Albert Schweitzer said that, “to educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kindness that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude.”
In this statement Mr. Schweitzer reminds us that gratitude can also be an action given to others as well. Saying thank you is the manifestation in reality of what we appreciate. It acknowledges to the other our awareness and thanks for what they have done. Saying thank you completes the circle of appreciation.
A big circle is coming to a close. The year is ending. Now is a time for reflection. A time to look back and find the events and people that we interacted with and made an impression on our life in a positive manner, or in a way that may have been uncomfortable but was a learning experience, or even difficult experiences that taught us we could survive and had more resilience than we thought possible.
As Buddha said, “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
Wishing you all the best in the New Year!
Photo: Flickr/BK/Karen Salmansohn Gratitude is a powerful antidote for the blues