Why Bother with Gratitude?
The jolly holiday of Christmas is behind us, and it is still the season of winter where the hours of darkness surpass those of daylight. An attractive, but unlikely solution to weathering this cold, daunting time of year might be to hibernate until spring. But instead, humans were created to forge ahead with living despite how the weather might make us feel. Everything though, is made a little harder by winter, including counting our blessings.
Why Count Our Blessings?
Being grateful, especially during a time such as this, may be more difficult, but cultivating gratitude is especially necessary when we feel the least grateful. Yet, the more we notice those things for which we can be grateful for, the more gratitude we feel. In other words—gratitude begets gratitude.
A few years ago, I challenged myself to start a gratitude journal. I wanted to keep a list until I reached the magic number of one thousand. I stopped at ninety-nine because the items became redundant. Although I did not reach my goal, the practice of writing down my blessings forced me to look at them. I concluded that good things occur every day in my run of the mill life; running water, plenty of food, good friends, a job that pays the bills, physical and mental well-being, and a happy marriage. Tabulating these items heightened my awareness. As a result, gratitude became a natural response to the dailiness of ordinary life.
Though I have hopes that my gratitude infiltrates the lives of others, I also have to be wary of those things that rob me of the attitude of gratitude. Like a treasure, I guard it from robbers. For instance, I don’t spend too much time with cynical and narcissistic individuals. Though I’d like to think my kind heartedness might override their self-centeredness, that is not always true. Nothing short of an encounter with a miracle worker will cast out hatred and conceit in some people. And since I am not in the business of working miracles, I limit my exposure to growlers and scowlers. I also keep envy and comparison, two other gratitude robbers, at bay. When these two thieves rise up inside of me, I know what squelches them—simple appreciation for who I am and what I have.
Gratitude is a feeling, but one that is nurtured and grows as we find things we appreciate. With practice, gratitude becomes an unlabored and daily giving of thanks. Without cost, gratitude gives our mental, emotional, and physical health a boost. On top of that, there are no ill side-effects resulting in an attitude of gratitude.
Why bother with gratitude? It is worth it to be grateful because the other option is to be ungrateful. And who wants to be saddled with that title?