Unleash the Power of Gratitude
Summary: It is literally impossible to be full of gratitude and be anything else. Gratitude can fend off depression and anxiety, or even fend off anger.
Here is a personal story that illustrates this:
My Journey with Gratitude
In my family, we had more things than 99.99% of the people in the world have. Yet growing up, I was abundantly aware of all we didn’t have. And my Dad had a thirst for more, and he did very well for himself. My Dad was told in eighth grade that he should not even go to high school or college, that he should just start working. Yet he turned out to be an attorney and a genius, and a wonderful human being.
But for whatever reason, my sisters and my Mom always felt that we weren’t going to have anything. They had this feeling that, around the corner, everything we had was all going to disappear.
I remember being told I wasn’t grateful lots of times as a kid, and I remember not understanding what that meant, and I remember mirroring what I thought I was seeing. So I can speak about the levels of misery one lives in without gratitude, because it wasn’t until I was 18 years old that I really understood it, how this lack of gratitude was the primary cause for all of my agitation, stressors, depression, anxiety, addiction, and why nothing ever felt enough for me. I always had this thirst for more – even when I got something I wanted, I instantly thirsted for something more.
So, in 1986 I started working on intentionally having gratitude. I would practice getting up and reading things and looking at the world a little differently, because I didn’t want to suffer from ingratitude anymore.
And the primary intervention from a cognitive standpoint was really just focusing on gratitude for what I already had – that and beginning to consciously catch myself craving and wanting other things. And I began to understand that wanting other things is a mental signal that whatever I currently have isn’t enough. And how do I keep from, almost subconsciously, sending that signal of “not enough” to myself all the time?
This little bit of perspective on gratitude allowed me to see how we – our family – were caught up in the rat race. We had nice cars, lived in a great home, and we had great everything – but someone else had something nicer. So to me, no one ever explained what that WAS, so I just always took for granted what I already had, and I always wanted something more. And that is a painful way to live.
So I continued to learn new perspectives and increased my gratitude. And that not only changed me, it changed my family. Over time, I had a much different family from what I grew up in. And the changes were about being able to think and feel and move and care about each other and communicate well. Because what did we have? Well, materially we had quite a lot, but what we really had was each other. So when you can appreciate what you have, one of the things it allows for is appreciating the people and connections in your life. It totally changes not only your perspectives, but how you relate to others, and that changes your whole relationship. I think the main take away from that story is that one person in a family that changes their attitude to gratitude can help inspire others to do the same.
For example, I was just talking to someone who was up in arms about not working and not having a job. And they had just received their unemployment check. And the unemployment check isn’t as much money as this person normally makes, meaning that it’s not going to cover their needs.
And I listened to them tell me all of what unemployment isn’t going to do before I said, “You just gave me 15 reasons for why this check isn’t going to be enough for you, and how it’s crappy. Can you give me five reasons why this check is good? Can you be grateful for five reasons?”
And we got to five reasons in two seconds.
1)Because I can feed my family,
2)Because a lot of other people didn’t get one,
3)Because I’ve worked hard and long enough,
4)Because this is more than what other people get because I have a government that even is capable of providing this,
5)And because I still have a roof over my head.
And the mood in that conversation went from, literally, “I’m so miserable, I don’t know how I’m going to make it,” to gratitude.
And that’s all it takes. Gratitude is about acknowledging what you have.
So a great exercise is to consciously choose three things you are grateful for. For example:
1)I’m grateful for the fact that I can breathe,
2)I’m grateful for my health,
3)I’m grateful for the fact that I have food in my fridge!
And a crisis is actually an amazing time to see the blessings in your life!
So it’s a good start to visualize finding gratitude moment-to-moment throughout your whole day.
You can even wake up in the morning and acknowledge your blessings and acknowledge the things around you, acknowledging even the ability not to like something. That’s amazing.
Because when you look around you, you’ll always find what you don’t have. Even Bill Gates, Bloomberg, Donald Trump will always feel a sense that there’s more, that they need more, that they could have more, that something’s missing.
That way will completely zap all happiness from your life. It’s not living at all.
So the hope is, having gratitude can turn a bad moment into a good one and can increase your joy in life.
Gratitude can transform negative thinking and make every day brighter.
So if you wish to keep on a positive path for yourself and change your life forever, start with the simple practice of writing down three things you can be grateful for. Start consciously practicing gratitude.
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