Gratitude is said to be a feeling of appreciation for what we have. It turns our focus outward and opens our eyes to what other people and life offer us. The magic of gratitude is that it connects us with the goodness out there in the world and especially in our own life. It restores faith in our fellow man that we’re together in this journey of life and we’re not left alone to navigate the perilous land of the unknown.
Gratitude and Social Bonds
A major benefit of feeling gratitude is that it serves to strengthen social bonds. It brings our attention to the gifts we receive from others such as encouragement, assistance – emotional, physical or financial, shelter, and many more ways that people support us to live a good life. It’s a realization that the goodness of our life that contributes to our happiness and well-being is found outside ourselves.
It’s the friend that cheers us on to follow our dream of a new career when we don’t exactly know how we’re going to make that dream a reality. It’s the teacher that takes extra time for her student who struggles with a new math concept and feels like he doesn’t have what it takes to continue school after high-school. It’s the support a new widow receives when his wife has lost his fight with cancer with cards and calls and visits. Gratitude takes on many different forms of action and words in many different situations, but the result is the same. It’s a genuine, deep from the heart thankfulness for the helping hand that shares love, humor, encouragement, compassion, understanding, or teaches us.
When I practice gratitude, it’s like a cozy blanket that feels like peace and safety and appreciation. I feel centered to acknowledge and respect the people around me who help me to live a good life. I’m inspired to pay it forward and share the magic of helping someone else live a good life too! Though we’re no longer needed to live in a tribe for “survival”, we thrive when we find a tribe to share our life journey. It’s the mutual support that’s priceless and when we continue to receive support and pay it forward, the number of people reached is multiplied and the impact becomes exponential. When each of us prosper and live a life of excellence, the whole world is rewarded.
What Gratitude Is and Is Not
True gratitude, the soul food, the life-sustaining nourishment for feeling peace and joy, isn’t a product of happy surprises, good fortune or luck, material things, power or money. Yes, we certainly feel gratitude when those things are earned, but the satisfaction is fleeting. They aren’t the true source of the unshakeable feeling gratitude provides and helps to make every day a good day, no matter what’s happening around us.
I know the people who have the bank account that funds trips, mansions, cars, jewelry, and hobbies that from a distance is without a doubt enviable. It’s easy to think, “They have it all. What a good life! What fun. How fulfilling their life must be.” and you’d probably believe this to be true. But we’d be wrong. Appearances are deceiving and in most lifestyles like this, the “shiny” has polluted the calm waters of the simple pleasures of life. It muddies the water of the beautiful and simple gifts of our human existence, and they become desensitized to the what the shiny offers. It quickly loses its luster and becomes ordinary. This I’ve seen leads to a desperate search for another new “shiny” to replace the old, boring, worn-out thrill they need in order to feel their life is good. Sadly, this will be a lifetime pursuit because they see living a happy life as something they don’t have and need to acquire.
Gratitude makes the ego take a back seat. It doesn’t allow the ego to be in the driver’s seat of our life that can easily steer us towards the superficial and temporary thrills that never fully satisfy us for more than a moment. They’re the flashy and shiny “gifts” that are so pretty and mesmerizing. They’re an enchanting illusion that hides the danger of becoming addicted to a temporary feeling of happiness with a quick expiration date and a promise to leave us feeling empty and less satisfied. It’s never-ending need for more of the “shiny” to feel good again. This is what I call the “Hollywood Factor” and my heart aches for how it’s infected the world with the false idea of what happiness and success looks like. Being genuinely happy in Hollywood appears to be the exception, not the normal.
No, gratitude is much deeper than the “shiny”. It’s a feeling of peace for all the miracles we may overlook like health and love and social connection. When given the room, gratitude roots deep within us. It never leaves us feeling as less than, or alone. It says, our life is splendid if we’d only look around with humility and simplicity.
It’s having the mindset of “I am a master at enjoying my life and experiencing true joy. I feel love and contentment, so much that all the other good fortune in my life is simply the cherry on top”. It’s a feeling deep, deep in our soul that is renewable and a self-sustaining resource of contentment available when we live with awareness and recognize the abundance of blessings that already exist in our life.
The true goodness in life isn’t in chasing what we don’t have, it’s appreciating what we have right now. We just need to cultivate it and we can do this by practicing gratitude for the riches in our life that are beyond and deeper than the material rewards of life.
Keep it Simple,