February 6th, 2018 - Brian Maguire

Every moment in life is a precious gift and nobody knows for sure the time of their physical departure from this world. For this reason (and many others), one should consciously focus on being here now, expressing gratitude for what you have in the present moment. Gratitude means being thankful, counting your blessings, and appreciating the little things in life. Gratitude, in a nut shell, is focusing your attention on what you already have, NOT grumbling about what you don’t.

When you approach life with the attitude that you don’t have enough and are always in a state of lack and need, you experience a sense of emptiness, discontentment, and unfulfillment. On the other hand, when you live a life full of thankfulness and completeness, you deeply appreciate all that you have, bringing feelings of fullness and joy into your daily life! There are many people out there that have attained a fair share of material wealth and are left feeling empty inside, no matter how much they accumulate. They take everything for granted, feel immensely pressured to keeping up with the Jones’s, and get addicted to collecting more stuff. When your perception is corrupted to think in this materialistic fashion, you will always be wanting, feeling as if you can never have enough.

This may explain why some millionaires and even billionaires end up taking their lives after a recession or financial downfall. When someone puts all their self-worth into the amount of money they have acquired, or their social status, financial ruin can be too devastating a blow for them to handle (leaving them at greater risk for depression and suicide). Conversely, if you have very little to show materially, you can absolutely experience intense euphoria just from being thankful for basic necessities like food, water, a functional body, a roof over your head, and the ability to help others in need. Money can bring you happiness when put in the right perspective, but it is surely not a prerequisite. Mother Theresa is a perfect example. She died without a penny to her name but was considered one of the richest women to ever live!

Everyone wants to be more stable financially, look better, acquire more friendships, and/or be better parents, workers, lovers, etc. There is nothing wrong with wanting to keep improving externally, as long as you do not attach yourself to those things of impermanence, remaining content and grateful for what you have in the present moment.

On the contrary, if you remain in a consistent state of want or need with little to no appreciation for what you have, you will at some point end up feeling deprived, depressed, and empty inside. Giving THANKS makes everyone happier! Gratitude reinforces healthy relationships, reduces stress, depression, fearful negative thinking, keeps you positively focused to reach your goals, and improves your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health!

Marlisa Faberge, in her article How Gratitude Can Change your Life, emphasized the importance of being grateful, advancing toward a more fulfilled life. She cited the work of two psychologists, Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons, who researched the impact of gratitude on well-being. They split hundreds of people into three different groups and asked them to keep daily diaries: group 1 recorded the events occurred during the day, group 2 was told to record their unpleasant experiences, and the last group was instructed to record a list of things for which they were grateful. They found that daily gratitude resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, determination, optimism and energy, and lower levels of depression and stress. They also reported greater progress toward achieving their goals!

Dr. Emmons has studied gratitude for almost a decade, and is the author of, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. His research of thousands of people indicates that practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25%. He claims that there is a “happiness set-point,” with your happiness dropping momentarily if something bad happens but then returning to its natural set-point. Or your happiness rising if something positive happens to you, and then returning back to normal. His research demonstrated that practicing gratitude raises your “happiness set-point”, so you can remain at a higher level of happiness regardless of outside circumstances. Additionally, those being grateful tend to bounce back faster from adversity, while developing stronger immune systems and healthier relationships!

According to American writer Melody Bettie, gratitude has a great recoiling effect in all aspects, “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

Being grateful may take some time to integrate into your being. Practice focusing on what you HAVE and not what you DON’T. Fake it til you make it! Keeping a gratitude journal is an amazing practice that can help to experience true happiness! At the end of each day, with sincerity, write down 3 things you are grateful for. It will only take a few minutes and you will notice a difference in how you feel fairly quickly.