The Importance of Gratitude
How many times have you had someone say, “you should be grateful”? How many times did that lead to you actually feeling grateful? Often, being told when we should feel gratitude only serves to make us feel somehow “wrong” when we don’t. It’s important to take time and get to the root of why that is. And if you find yourself saying things like, “you should be glad”, take a moment to consider how they might affect the person you’re speaking to. These comments are typically said with someone’s best interests in mind, but they can be seen as dismissive.
Let’s say a person (Shane) is telling their friend (Jess) about their hard day at work. Jess responds: “At least they pay well.” Jess may have simply meant to encourage Shane, but the result is that Shane’s complaint is diminished. What Jess has essentially said is that Shane shouldn’t talk about the less pleasant parts of the day because they should be grateful for the money. The message Shane receives is that their complaint doesn’t matter—their feelings don’t matter. And every time someone tells Shane that they should be grateful for something, it adds to their discomfort.
Eventually, Shane finds the simple act of expressing gratitude difficult. They may not even notice this discomfort, but it shows in a few ways. They’re perfectly fine thanking a cashier or waitress (and we all should be), but the idea of living a grateful life is foreign. They push against it—preferring instead to focus on the negative in their life.
I’m willing to bet that Shane isn’t alone. We’ve all had someone tell us that we should be grateful when we didn’t feel it. Even children experience this. And we all feel bad about it whether we want to or not. This negativity can make true gratitude that much more difficult to feel or experience.
Last Wednesday, while washing dishes and listening to music. I was overcome with a wonderful surge of joy that brought me to tears. I started thinking about the good things in my life. I thought how lucky I am to have a home to clean, how awesome it is that I have an understanding partner, as well as a pet and day-job that I love. I thought about my friendships and the lessons I’ve learned over the years and where I was just a few years ago.
The truth is, I could have ended up in so many negative situations. My background, without going too much into detail, is riddled with addiction and abuse. I could easily have followed the patterns of my family—and I nearly did.
I credit my mother and my faith for giving me the vision to change my path—and for allowing me to suffer the consequences of my own choices. Experiencing certain hardships has made seeing the beauty in my life that much easier.
After a recent period of darkness, I began to put more effort into living a grateful life. It seemed like the only way to find joy again was to sort of force it. So, I wrote in my journal at the end of every day about something that I was grateful for. At first, it was a little tough, but I began to see more and more good with each passing week.
The act of forcing myself to be grateful eventually led to me seeing real change in my outlook. In fact, every time I’ve found myself in a cycle of depression, I’ve used a similar method to get myself out of it. Simply put, I pretended until it became real. Were there days I didn’t actually feel grateful? Definitely. But I wrote something in the journal, anyway. Finding things to be grateful for helps to improve my life, and I think it can do that for anyone.
You don’t have to work hard to find something you’re thankful for. The fact that you wake up each day is a thing to be celebrated. If you’re capable of doing something someone else isn’t, be grateful for your good fortune. If you’ve gone through some hardships, take notice that you’re still standing—you’re strong. Tell yourself to see the good in your life and you will. “Fake it” as they say.
Every day, I find some reason to thank the Goddess. For inspiration. For holding me up when my pain seemed too much. For making Entenmann’s donuts so good. Whether it’s in song or silent prayer; whether I simply close my eyes and feel grateful or I spend half an hour crying and blubbering about the beauty of my life—there is no wrong way to thank Her.
How do you find gratitude in your daily life? Think about what you’re grateful for. Do you think you could bring more gratitude into your life? What are some ways you express gratitude?
Let me know your opinions in the comments!
With love always,
Lady Morgana Brighid HP MCCA
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