Think of the last time someone expressed their gratitude towards you.
I’m sure you felt good, even if you might have modestly brushed it off your shoulders with your feet firmly implanted on the ground! To receive an acknowledgment or appreciation or recognition for something that you have done or said generates an inner pleasant feeling. This is to a great extent due to the constructive neurotransmitters secreted by the brain as a recognition of the expressed gratitude.
So you see, a Thank You does a whole lot more than is overtly evident!
If you take some time to recollect all those incidents in which you deserved gratitude, but they simply didn’t come your way, you would also remember the accompanying strong or faintly sinking feeling which was either momentary or long-lived.
Gratitude is an attitude of the heart. It can never be coercively eked out from anyone. At the same time, it can never be imposed on anyone. Not everyone has the attitude of being grateful. And, not everyone has the heart to graciously receive gratitude.
However, considering the lot of good that gratitude does to self and others, it is an attitude worth cultivating.
A couple of days back, as I walked past a particular lane in my vicinity, I saw heaps of bricks on one side. A house was being constructed nearby. My thoughts instinctively drifted off towards the poor workers at brick kilns in not-so-welcome environments, facing exploitation, bondage, deprivation, and abuse from their owners. And I thought, would the owner of the house that was being constructed ever think of the source of the bricks that are being used to erect his house?
An old Vietnamese proverb says –
“When eating fruit, remember the one who planted the tree.”
In the fast-paced consumeristic world that we live in, we either don’t take the time to look back and be grateful or we make much ado out of the gratitude that we express or we flow with the tide of the formal exchanges of gratitude. The spontaneity of the heartfelt expression has become a rarity!
G.K. Chesterton says –
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
Gratitude sure is a catalyst for happiness. It gives happiness to the one who expresses and to the one who receives.
Family is one such social circle where gratitude is taken for granted. I have heard people say that there need not be such formalities within the informal environment of a family because it makes relationships appear distant. I choose to differ. Within a family are individuals whose need for appreciation, recognition, and acknowledgement is as profound as those of others we come across in the world outside. It sure would seem hypocritical to organize formal Thanksgiving ceremonies, while having a gratitude-starved dear one within the family!
Another significant area of starved gratitude is in the authority-subordinate equation. Words of gratitude are seldom heard from people in authority towards their subordinates on a day-to-day basis. The work done, targets met and tasks accomplished are taken for granted. A word of acknowledgement with a smile would surely do wonders for the boss as well!
How to cultivate the attitude of gratitude?
If gratitude doesn’t come to one spontaneously, it needs to be cultivated. Here is how you can work your way towards cultivating the attitude of gratitude:
First, reflect upon your life and acknowledge the things bestowed on you – by God, by family and friends.
Second, recognize the inner need for gratitude in yourself and others.
Third, consciously decide to express gratitude. An unexpressed feeling of gratitude can be more stifling than no gratitude at all.
Fourth, think of ways to express. It can be by way of spoken or written words, by small or big acts of recognition, or by any gestures that convey the meaning.
Fifth, defeat your ego or coyness as may be the case. Put your guard down.
Finally, just go ahead and express it!
As you make this a habitual pattern, you will sense the spontaneity of the overflow of gratitude in your heart. The more you express gratitude, the more you will notice things that you need to be grateful for.
One of the best personal practices is to be thankful to God each morning and at the end of each day, for the world runs along by His might and grace alone, though we keep chugging on with our share of responsibilities.
The wise Psalmist writes –
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
In Candles Online, we have dedicated this month to explore different facets of Gratitude. This week our writers would continue with writing on the impact of gratitude on happiness. Enjoy reading!