What does being grateful do for you?

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Those of you who are familiar with this column know that I write about gratitude on a regular basis. I don’t think we can talk about it enough. The times we are living in now, gratitude is everything! Think about it. Where do you even start? Is it all the devastation and havoc that Mother Nature is wreaking around the world? Or is the absolute carnage that we read about everyday about man’s inhumanity to his fellow human beings? Or is it the extreme levels of poverty that so many people are suffering? Or is it about those who are barely living due to ill health or the effects of chronic illness? I can keep going because the list is not exhaustive. While you might be affected by some of the afore mentioned conditions, there are many of us who are not, or if we are, it is on a much less scale.

Yet we constantly complain, we are disgruntled, we are angry, we curse others, we wish others ill-will. We chose to see the worst in others and ultimately in ourselves because we inadvertently create negativity, unpleasantness and emotional or psychological hardships for ourselves which can result in physical illness too as I have written about in the past.

One of the other things I like to talk about, even more so recently is the need for a new understanding of spirituality and the true meaning of living righteously. Something awful is taking place all around us, awful in its capability to be all consuming and awful in the numbers who are being affected. It is the awfulness of us losing our divine capacity as human beings to be kind, compassionate and caring for those less fortunate than we are. This is not necessarily to do with material ability. In fact, at the level we are descending where our humanity is at risk, financial wealth is almost less important than the wealth of empathy and love. I’m sure there will be those who will say it’s all about having money. Well we all know of those who have a lot of it and it has not necessarily kept them alive or made them happy.

As I reflected on the importance and beauty of gratitude, I thought of how it allows you a moment to focus on all that is good in your life even if it is only fleetingly. You get to see the glass half full as opposed to half empty if that is not your preferred way of thinking.

The problem we tend to have in our world today, that demands that we must have everything, do everything, be everything, in order to feel fulfilled, is that there is no space to appreciate the small things. Whereas if the truth be told, if we didn’t have those simple things we take for granted in our lives, we would soon realise how bereft we were. I am talking about being able to enjoy the warmth of the sun on your skin, to be able to observe and appreciate the beauty of nature, to have the ability to laugh, eat, to talk, to get pleasure from seeing the innocence in the eyes of a child. It is true that we may all have these abilities in varying degrees, but the point is that there are some who are not blessed to even have the capacity to experience any of these in any form. We really take so much for granted

There are some undeniable benefits to having gratitude as a regular practice in your life. Emotionally, you have a more enhanced level of good feelings. You can feel more relaxed, more resilient, because you become less envious, thereby feeling strengthened by your own abilities and qualities. Gratitude helps us to see our situation in a way that can lessen panic and could open up our thinking to new situations. Gratitude helps to put things into perspective.

Gratitude generates social capital. It makes us more trusting, more social and generally more appreciative. As a result, we exude something that people are drawn to. It can deepen existing relationships. Gratitude is strongly correlated with optimism and this in turn makes us happier, improving our health and general well being. When we can see the good, in spite of the bad, it becomes more difficult to complain and to stay stuck.

Throughout the day as I watch people going about their duties and as I engage with my clients and in other duties, I am reminded to consider all the things I have to be grateful for. Don’t get me wrong, I know where it hurts….as the saying goes, ‘he who feels it knows it’; I have my share of hurt and feel it in many places and in many ways and I sometimes have to ask the question why me? As some of you who might read this column know, I am always talking about being grateful for small blessings. In spite of all those scary, ugly moments we live through, like present times, if we consciously stop and be still for a moment, focus on what there is to be grateful about, it’s truly amazing how many things you can find. A lot of it might be small and you may consider it mundane, but you can be sure it’s something someone else doesn’t have. You may simply be in a position to say a kind word to another, or to dry a tear from the eye of a friend , maybe even a stranger, you may simply still have the capacity to laugh which is something that  has been taken away from someone else. Laughter is precious and greatly under rated. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than hearing people laugh. My work can have very dire moments in as much as listening to peoples’ suffering but even within that, there are moments to share laughter and humour; but everywhere else, particularly in my home I try to create as much joy and happiness as possible.

Gratitude reduces the urge to be materialistic which can reduce well being and increase mental ill-health. There is nothing wrong in being inspirational, but the difference or the problem with materialism or avarice is that it makes people feel less competent, it robs them of the ability to appreciate and enjoy the good in life and it generates negative emotions and makes them more self centred. Gratitude helps us to realise what we have. This can lessen our need for wanting more all the time.

The more spiritual you are, the more likely you are to be grateful. All the major religions espouse gratitude as a virtue. For many of us, if all we say everyday for the rest of our lives is “Thank You”, it would be justified. This is not to say we don’t have challenges and even tribulation, but it can always be worse.

I am grateful for so much and will continue to remind myself as we slowly begin to pull the curtain draws on 2017, with all its attendant problems and despairing, dismal state of affairs in the world.  Being the optimist that I am, I am assured of better things in store in the future. Take stock today of all that you are grateful for and make someone laugh. It’s really worth it.

‘Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it’ — Helen Keller

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