“In order to be happy, we must first possess inner contentment; and inner contentment doesn’t come from having all we want; but rather from wanting and appreciating being grateful for all we have.“Dalai Lama
My friend and I were walking down the street the other night looking for a place to eat. We had lost track of time, and it was now 9.30 pm. There were several open restaurants on this street, but it had suddenly dawned on me that we are in a pandemic, and most restaurants close at 10 pm these days. I felt my anxiety rising. I already had a clear picture in my mind of how I may be starving for the rest of the night. So I suggested checking out the first restaurant we came across. They were still open and willing to seat us. I was not too impressed with the restaurant, but I figured we were running out of options.
On the other hand, my friend was more optimistic and wanted to check out the other restaurants before making a decision. I nodded my head reluctantly and went along with the suggestion. After looking at two other restaurants, we found an Italian restaurant. They said they close their kitchen at 11 pm. We ate there and had an amazing dinner. The food was authentic, the ambiance was great, and the service was outstanding. I am certain that we would not have had such an amazing experience at that first restaurant. I was grateful for my friend’s persistence.
My friend’s attitude was coming from a place of abundance. Because of this, we had a great dinner, and we did not have to rush. They told us to take our time, and we stayed past 11 pm. I realized that I would have settled for that first restaurant because I was looking at the situation from a place of scarcity. I say all this to say that viewing things from this space causes us to settle for less because we believe that if we do not grasp what we have in front of us, we may not get another opportunity.
Now that that has been established, I would like to discuss how this fits into the topic of gratitude. Some may argue that overplaying an attitude of gratitude can lead to complacency. Why would one want to improve their situation or have ambition if they are thankful for what they have? I can understand this view on gratitude, especially when we look at how, historically, slave owners used gratitude as a tool to manipulate their “slaves” to accept their situation. But one would also argue that true gratitude stems from a space of abundance. And if so, as seen in the above scenario, we are less likely to settle because we know that the possibilities are endless.
There is a lot of emphasis in the modern world on journaling about what we are grateful for. While I wholeheartedly agree with this practice, I cannot help but notice how we seem to have removed the spiritual aspect from the practice of being grateful. Is it possible to remove God or spirituality from the practice of gratitude? Let’s not forget that the concept of gratitude and its benefits on our health and morale has been around for centuries. Most religions and spiritual traditions revolve around the practice of gratitude and being intentional with it.
But what is gratitude after all? Is it just a feeling? An emotion? I can see how you could tell yourself you ought to be grateful for something! That would make you appreciative in the sense that you would understand the value of something on an intellectual level. But does that make you grateful? I know from personal experience that a spirit of gratitude can be cultivated through a spiritual journey and/or a relationship with God. Gratitude is, to me, like the main ingredient in an amazing meal. Gratitude alone is incomplete without the spirituality that surrounds it and vice versa.
It is scientifically proven that our human brain is wired to be more sensitive to negative emotions. Our brain is predisposed to focus on what is wrong. A spirit of gratitude helps shift our focus. True gratitude helps us give a positive meaning to what would otherwise be considered a negative experience. Our brain is designed to give meaning to things. If I were to get negative reviews on this blog, I could conclude that I’m a terrible blogger and throw the towel in. Or I could be appreciative of the feedback and take it as an opportunity to sharpen my blogging skills and refine my content.
Being grateful is contagious. It spreads to others, and it breeds more thoughts of appreciation . It generates such a positive feeling that it forces me to appreciate all the things I don’t have and all the things I went through: If I had it all, if everything had gone my way, I would not have cultivated a spirit of gratitude. I hate to sound cliche, but if you are anything like me and dislike rainy days, you learn to appreciate those days because if it were to be sunny every day, we would take the sunny days for granted. The rainy days are needed to keep things in perspective and appreciate sunny days even more.