Gratitude

I have spoken to many people who have great levels of success and one of the most predominate statements they make is of gratitude. They have appreciation for what they have, not necessarily dependent on monetary gain. Also, they speak of the path they have followed, the people in their lives and the circumstances they have encountered. Their success takes second wheel to how fortunate they feel themselves to be by being in the position in which they live.

Where did gratitude come from?

It is an open question as to whether animals know gratitude. Mutual grooming can be interpreted as an act of kindness, or thankfulness, amongst our fellow mammals. Herd animals, primates, predators and our pets will groom one another. This can be argued as a part of the evolutionary process. Reciprocation is key to survival of the species. As well, returning the favor has been key to human survival; all of us have at one time or another.

Is this an expression of gratitude?

We all want to believe our pets appreciate us, that their expressions of love are acts of gratefulness. I don’t believe that we can quantify their thoughts. Our animals definitely express pleasure and joy to us, but to name those emotions as thankfulness is a bit of a stretch.

Chimps are known to pay favors ahead, and they remember those who have extended them. Also, they extend hugs to their care takers, but not in an arbitrary way. There is purpose in those acts of affection.

For humans, gratitude is one of the most important parts of our relationships. A tribe could not survive without reciprocity being part of social function. Within that frame work were the beginnings thankfulness. It is deeply rooted in our internal mechanisms, the basis of mutual cooperation.

From reciprocation comes gratefulness. There are specific areas of our brain which are involved in experiencing and sharing gratitude. We are wired to expect expressions of appreciation when we share our own. Expressions of gratitude fire our endorphins, giving us pleasure.

I like pleasure.

In Religion and History

The great world religions view gratitude as a prized behavior. The concept of thankfulness dominates teachings, traditions and texts. Worshiping with a glad and grateful spirit is a cornerstone of these belief systems.

My paraphrasing of Adam Smith says that before any thing can be the complete and proper object of gratitude, it must be the cause of pleasure. Sorry, Adam, for my over simplification.

Aristotle said suffering becomes beautiful when anyone bears great calamities with cheerfulness, not through insensibility but through greatness of mind.

Gratitude Matters

Merriam-Webster defines gratitude as the state of being grateful: Thankfulness. As a positive emotion, it enlarges appreciation.

I am always looking for way to channel vision and my creative force; a method to balance life’s realities and the freedom I seek. With that being said, appreciation and gratitude form a natural alliance.

My life path has taken me on a journey of positive outcome after positive outcome. Building strength upon strength, my mind is prepared for today’s rewards. Not only are there expectations of achievement but I am fully prepared to utilize those successes. The sources of those accomplishments are both external and internal, both going hand in hand. These help reinforce gratitude’s distinction.

As Process

It takes direct and conscious effort to count blessings.

Gratefulness can be cultivated as a personality trait. Yes, it takes time. Like anything, used as a daily habit, it cultivates a stronger sense of satisfaction with our surrounding world. There is a ton of negativity everywhere, in society and our relationships. Part of human nature includes being resentful and jealous. We need help in shifting our attention away from negative mind sets.

I find myself embracing less than positive attitudes when things aren’t going my way, when being taken advantage of and having time and resources wasted by externalities.

I treasure the times I can be around families and friends. Also, being more appreciative of life and feeling less cynical pushes you into a more thankful frame of mind.

Humor is a way to feel more grateful and I use it regularly.

At other times, when you are facing a tough choices, seeing gratefulness as a gift is useful. Some people wouldn’t mind having such a decision to make.  

The Job

Most of us work in highly stressful environments.

It takes a tough mental attitude to attempt offsetting the unpleasantness of co-workers and the work environment. Gratefulness is a great way to do that. Still being a working stiff, I do fall into complaining and whining. It’s easy to do.

If gratitude is a foundation of contentment and joy, how can it hurt to try practicing it as a response. Researchers have shown positive emotions expand our cognitive and social skills. An easier to “smile than to frown” concept.

Being grateful requires being in the present.

Habits are everything. Good or bad, habits reflect the attributes of our personality.

Immediacy, especially in the work environment, fosters a narrower field of thinking, including stress and anxiety. I get it, it’s hard to be grateful when it gets to push and shove time. Being grateful helps switch our brains to focusing on the thing that needs to be done and away from the obstacles blocking us. By getting into the flow of gratitude, you can unlock other creative thoughts.

Benefits

Gratitude can make you more innovative and creative.

Expressing and receiving gratitude releases dopamine and serotonin to our brains. They make us feel good.

I don’t know about you, but I like that happy place. When I’m happy my mood becomes more relaxed. When I’m more relaxed there is less stress. Less stress, fewer depressing thoughts, leading to more optimism. The more optimism I experience the less susceptible I am to toxic thoughts and emotions.

The mindset of a grateful person is opposite of someone who feels they are owed. We all have family members, friends and acquaintances who behave this way. The destructive behavior destroys their lives and negatively affects those around them.

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