the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness: she expressed her gratitude to the committee for their support.
The dictionary gives that definition for the word Gratitude. It’s an expression we use frequently in our society, and I believe, often without thought. “I’m so grateful it’s sunny!” Sure, it’s nice that it’s sunny. You might not want rain right now. But perhaps you haven’t stopped and felt a true sense of gratitude for the sun–– that it provides warmth, it helps things grow, it brightens our moods, it creates power… you’re happy that it’s not raining, happy to see the sun, but are you feeling true gratitude?
I frequently hear people talk about keeping gratitude journals these days. I see a lot of focus on gratitude, but I also notice a lot of negativity and a lack of gratitude.
I’m just as guilty as the next person of complaining, and not pausing to feel gratitude for the many fortunate things in my life. I have many blessings–– I word I use with little or no attention to faith. My life is good, and there is much to be grateful for. Yet it’s easy to focus on the negative political climate, the destruction of our natural environments and the planet as a whole (and if you don’t believe that’s happening; just move on to another post); the person on the bus/at the intersection/in line at the store that was rude to me, or so many other things that happen daily, which do not bring gratitude. These things can mount and easily push my buttons.
It’s easy to forget that the sun did shine; there are people like me, in many places, working to save our planet; someone at the store stepped aside for me or smiled kindly. I might forget that I have friends and family who love me. I have a beautiful home, clean easy water, and good food to eat. I have two dogs that make me smile every morning. I’ve been married for thirty-two years to someone who loves me and is always there for me. I have excellent health care, even if I get annoyed by small details of that healthcare. There’s a long list of things that I could pause and feel grateful for, each and every day, but I don’t always do that.
I think many people use happiness and gratitude interchangeably, but I don’t believe the two are one and the same. It’s often written that “happiness is fleeting” (here, here, here), while I believe that true gratitude is far more sustaining. It makes sense to me, that if someone focuses on gratitude, and feels it in its truest sense, it’s likely to be more lasting. It’s something that fills you and is likely to create that fleeting happiness, and also likely to leave a deeper sense of appreciation that lingers beyond when the happiness has… well, fleeted.
For the fifth year in a row, I recently hosted the Attitude of Gratitude. The history of it is spelled out in that post, but it started five years ago with a focus on happiness, more than gratitude. Over time, my focus has shifted a little. I’ve realized that in asking others to focus on gratitude, I’m asking each of us to really pause and appreciate all of the things in life that we’re grateful for, the things that are not necessarily fleeting–– the things we might take for granted, because they are so essential to our happiness, but in our tendency to notice them in those fleeting moments of happiness, we forget just how grateful we are for them.
No doubt, there are countless things in each of our lives that we take for granted and rarely express real gratitude for each day: Clean air, safety, love, companionship, and easy access to food–– to name some basics. For instance, how often do you really pause to think about how important clean water is, and how fortunate you are to have it? So many people in the world don’t. So many people walk miles, often hours each way, just to get safe water for washing and drinking. So many people die because they don’t have it. Such a simple thing, yet we seldom take the time to be grateful for.
So far 14 bloggers have participated in this year’s Attitude of Gratitude; I’ve included links to their posts, at the bottom of mine. I know several other people who chose to write lists and take the challenge, but who do not blog and/or did not post their lists. That’s something I feel truly grateful for! I’ve read every one of those lists, and I’m always struck by how many things other people share, that I too feel grateful for. Many of these things elicit happiness daily, but in that concept of fleeting, I’m aware that I don’t take the time I should to actually celebrate some of them. I don’t pause enough and allow myself to actively feel the gratitude some of they’re worthy of. I’d like to keep a gratitude journal, but I don’t. I’ve tried, and it did in fact make me feel good. But I didn’t keep it up.
So, once a year I’m happy to “flood the internet” with gratitude. I’m under no illusion that the flood is small, but I do believe that gratitude begets more gratitude, and that… is something I feel very grateful for.
What are you grateful for? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
The Attitude of Gratitude is scheduled to end on January 15th. If you would still like to join us, please check out the details here. Follow the instructions, and add your link to the InLinkz. I will also add a link to your post on my own post.
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