“To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.” – Johannes A. Gaertner – Professor, Theologian, Poet
I started thinking about being grateful a few years back when I wrote my book, The Up Side of Down. I devoted a chapter to discussing how to lead a more grateful life. Now, however, I am looking at Living Gratitude – Something a bit different. What does it mean to Live Gratitude?
Gratitude has been described as ‘a habit of the heart’ which gives meaning to our life by receiving life as a gift. I know that people who practice gratitude experience more positive emotions such as optimism, joy, and enthusiasm; and that gratitude strengthens relationships because people feel closer and more committed to friends and romantic partners. Science backs this up.
I believe that living gratitude is a choice we make moment by moment each day, and this is not easy to do. The distractions of life make it easy to forget the importance of gratitude. After enough time, though, we hope it becomes automatic.
But, what does it mean to Live Gratitude? In looking for the answer to this question, I discovered that it is easier for me to understand if I break it down into four categories where gratitude demands action.
- On a Personal Level – for me, this is the easiest place to feel gratitude. Through my faith in God I recognize miracles big and small, feel blessed to have a wonderful family and many close friends. I recognize how fortunate I am to have a beautiful home, and I express my gratitude by regularly opening my home to visitors, hosting meetings, and welcoming strangers. It is one action I can take to live in gratitude.
- In Nature – Another area that opens up to me when I am feeling grateful for the blessings and miracles in my life is that I tend to pay attention to the wonder of nature, the cycles of seasons, and the beauty of plants, and the wonder of insects and animals all around. Colors become more vibrant, and then I realize that I have a part in taking care of nature and the earth – whether it be by recognizing global warming, saving the whales, cleaning our local beaches, or recycling in my home – living gratitude requires action.
- With Others – I understand that the daily practice of gratitude helps to keep my heart open. I also find that this practice not only focuses on how my life is being blessed, but I that need to focus also on the many others living and working in my life. If I am to give thanks for the joy of human life, its wonders, surprises, hopes, and achievements*, then I must participate either individually or in community by showing respect for everyone – without exception. As a Christian I am taught to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners and so much more. Again, living gratitude requires action.
- Globally – I now understand that I also need to be working actively for peace, equality, and justice, so that others might live in dignity and freedom. I am very remiss in this area, but I know I can start close to home by working for the rights of the disabled, and take it globally by helping organizations that deliver wheelchairs to third world countries. What would you choose to do?
“Through conscious and sustained practice over a period of time, we can discover again how gratitude and all its related qualities – thankfulness, appreciation, compassion, generosity, grace, and so many other positive states – can become integrated and embodied in our lives.” – Angeles Aarrien, author of Living in Gratitude: Mastering the Art of Giving Thanks Every Day
What are your thoughts?
* Used in many well-known prayers