Gratitude: A feeling of thankful appreciation for favors or benefits received.
Appreciation: The act of appreciating – a) a proper estimation or enjoyment; b) grateful recognition, as of a favor; c) sensitive awareness or enjoyment, as of art. A judgment or evaluation.
Appreciation is the key to gratitude. A proper valuing and enjoyment of things we have, whether gained by our own efforts or given to us by others.
Every life has difficulty, heartbreak, setback. Cultivating a sense of gratitude is a superb survival strategy. Story of elderly lady who walks in all kinds of weather.
We forget about how well our bodies function! Every day we wake up and systems work.
When we are on the lookout for people who might hurt us (remember dirty tricks?), we create an unhappy mindset. To counter this, take time to feel the goodness of gratitude. When you can slow down long enough to notice the things you truly enjoy, your thinking changes.
I ask people from time to time to tell me about the things they are most grateful for off the top of their heads. There are several categories that seem automatic as people consider their lives.
- Material goods and possessions. Food, shelter, clothing, electronics, vehicles, iPhones. This one tends to come first in people’s minds and it cuts across all generations and income levels. It’s tangible evidence of success. It is good to appreciate what you have as a result of hard work.
- Human relationships. Family members, partners, spouses, children. Friends, colleagues, teammates, neighbors. This is closer to the top of the list for young parents, grandparents, people who have had a scare – health crisis or accident, for example – and people who have either lost material possessions or have as many of them as they want.
- Health. Mental, verbal, and physical abilities. This is often on the minds of people who are elderly; or who have been sick, have loved ones who are sick, or have survived some sort of physical trauma. Forced to slow down…
- Talents. Gifts that are unique to the individual – artistic, musical, writing, math, science, woodworking, construction, athletics, architectural, engineering, caretaking, comedy… there are many fields in which talent plays an enormous role in getting started and achieving success. Rarely do we stop to consider that talent is a gift for which we should be grateful. We tend to rush into finding a way to make it lucrative!
- Pets. When the whole world turns against us, our pets love us anyway.
Gratitude requires time for noticing and reflecting on gifts. Gratitude can be practiced and nurtured.
At the Backbone Institute, we believe that conscious gratitude can change a life. Call up your character! Notice what makes you happy … Sights, sounds, people, events, pets, experiences.
Keep track of these things. Gratitude journal – As a single mom, my daily entry was often, “We made it through the day.” Souvenirs – Take a tour of the souvenirs you have in your home. Reflect on where they came from, who is associated with them and why they made you happy.
When you encounter the gloomy naysayer, don’t argue. But don’t invest time in hearing him/her out. Keep your mindset on finding good things to be grateful for.
A belated happy Thanksgiving!
Susan Marshall is a consultant and founder of Executive Advisor LLC in Oconomowoc. She also is the author of "How to Grow a Backbone." For additional information, visit www.executiveadvisorllc.com.