Choosing Gratitude

With Thanksgiving weekend nearing the end, I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on gratitude and how and why it affects us as human beings.

“The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”   -David Steindl-Rast 

This quote reminds me that gratitude is a choice and it is a state of mind. It’s not something that spontaneously happens only when our external world showers us with positive circumstances (although that can occasionally happen too). For the most part, it’s a state of mind that we choose for ourselves and it can hugely affect our perspective and the way we approach life’s challenges. Life is full of ups and downs, and as humans it’s so easy to fall into a loop of darkness and notice everything we can’t control or all of the things that are going wrong in our lives. This is especially reinforced when we are immersed in social media and bombarded with curated images of other peoples’ lives. But we have the power of free will and the ability to influence what we notice in our lives, even for those with more naturally pessimistic tendencies. This is where gratitude comes in. It’s not a cure-all, and won’t fix the problems we encounter. But overall, taking stock of everything you have to be grateful for can impact your overall happiness and quality of life without having to rely on what’s happening around you. It’s an inside job.

When large events and transitions come up in our lives, it’s easy to quickly judge whether they’re ‘good’ or ‘bad’ from the outset. But getting fired from one job might mean that you’re now free to pursue another job that’s even better suited to you and your needs. Seemingly bad situations can turn out as your greatest gifts in life. And vice versa, something you assumed would be amazing might not be the best thing for you down the road. And we only have hindsight to know better after the fact, so we can’t make assumptions too quickly at the beginning. That’s not to say you shouldn’t grieve, feel angry or truly experience any emotions that arise in the moment. But take the time to remind yourself that the way you feel about the situation now may change over time. Notice in this moment what you can be grateful for, maybe despite difficult challenges  you may be facing.

One of the best things gratitude can bring us is a broadening of perspective, a way to move beyond ourselves. Deepak Chopra shares in his writing that “when you’re appreciating something, your ego moves out of the way. You can’t have your attention on ego and gratitude at the same time.” It can be a breath of much needed fresh air to shift perspective in this way and feel more connected to everything and everyone around you. Gratitude allows us to brush aside the cobwebs that keep us locked in the cocoon of our individual lives and remember what’s happening around us.

There are so many ways to build gratitude into your life, whether it be sharing with family, writing in a journal or thinking about it on a walk. Thanksgiving is a perfect reminder to partake in one of these activities, but gratitude will have an even bigger impact on your life if you have time to reflect monthly, weekly, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, daily!! I’d love to hear your favourite way to reflect on what you’re grateful for and what you’re feeling grateful for at the moment!