No one wants to hear the words “be grateful.”
When you think about it, in most cases when the phrase is used, it feels more like a demand than a suggestion and a whole lot more dismissive than helpful.
When I was younger, growing up, my dad always used to make home-cooked meals for me and my brother, every day, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Being the spoiled, unknowing kid that I was, I’d always complain about how I wanted to go out to eat and how all my friends and their families went to restaurants and how we always ate at the crib.
My dad, unbothered, almost as if he was half-listening to my complaints in the first place, would always respond, “Be grateful and eat your food.”
That experience and many like it for the longest time put a bad taste in my mouth when it came to gratitude. Whenever I heard it I’d scoff at the sentiment. In my mind, “gratefulness” was this make-believe bandaid that made everything better.
I began to see “being grateful” as a chore; like calling your grandparents or going to a siblings recital. It felt obligatory and cliche. “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re all in this together, let’s get smores and sing com baja over campfires.”
It would be nice if life was like a Disney movie with big smiles, jingles throughout, with everyone being grateful, but that’s not reality. There are hardships and dead ends and confusion.
There’s a crisis in Sudan, families are being ripped apart at our border. All with the most polarizing Commander-in-Cheif in history. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. and our current opioid crisis is the worst addiction epidemic in American history — no one wants to hear about “being grateful.”
That’s why I was taken back and floored to learn in adulthood that gratitude — the very thing I had formed stigma towards — was far from what I had thought it to be. Not only did I have a shit ton to be grateful for, but expressing and recognizing these things are actually good for me.
There is research upon research documented on the health benefits of counting your blessings, including recent studies that have found it improves cardiovascular health, boosts our mental health and resilience to stress, and might have particular benefits for health professionals.
Through gratitude, we can reclaim our happiness, find new purpose and live healthier, but it all starts with our wants and needs.
Restructure your wants & needs
Harvard Medical School defines gratitude as “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.” Upon first reading this definition it made me think to myself how selfish I must be.
Forget the context of my dad cooking me breakfast or any one individual doing something for you. What really stuck with me was the “receiving” part.
A lot of times we find it hard to possess gratitude because we live in a capitalist society that only places value on the wants and needs that affect the bottom dollar.
Being in a state of ungratefulness is saying you haven’t received anything — which is simply not true. Every day we’re given something — whether it’s the right to free speech, clean water or life, itself. But we’re unable to see these things without gratitude.
Gratitude helps us see past the consumer-driven lenses the majority of us have found ourselves behind and helps us see how every day, we’re gifted through relationships, life, and opportunity that has value outside of the corporate world.
If you only choose to be grateful for your accomplishments in your professional life or to standards society set for you, you’ll never find yourself being grateful for anything, which is a miserable life.
Once our wants and needs are restructured and we’re not placing the bulk of our value in our professional accolades our perspective will have no choice but to change.
Sometimes in life, all we need is a shift in our paradigm to begin living the life we always wanted. You’ll be surprised at what opportunities you attract from just being happy and wearing a smile or the relationships you’ll cultivate just from being content with what’ in front of you.
Being grateful is neither about ignoring your failed accomplishments nor is it about being content with complacency. Gratitude, rather, allows you to see that there is just the right amount of good happening as the perceived “bad.” This allows you to see things in a way that leads you to more fortune.
The biggest impact gratitude will have on your life is the positivity it’ll enact. Positivity is attractive. It strengthens and it’s something that, no matter how cheesy, everyone desperately wishes they had.
People shy away from gratitude and positivity and put on a cloak pessimism only because they’re so scorned by what isn’t working out.
Nowadays positivity is the most dispensable it’s ever been and that’s because people think being happy will let them down. The majority of us don’t practice gratitude or a technique for conjuring it.
But when we’re intentional about being grateful and we take time to recognize what we’re being gifted on a daily basis, the positivity will be inevitable.
Being grateful is not easy and there is more than enough to stress over. If we cultivate the habit of finding gratefulness in our everyday lives, it’ll do the same in finding us as well.