AS diverse and unique as human beings are, we all have one thing in common: we want to be happy. Everything we do, when it comes down to it, we do because we believe it will bring us happiness; be this immediately or ultimately, short-term or more long-standing. The mistake we tend to make is we have an external focus. “I’ll be happy when X happens” or “When I obtain Y, then I’ll be happy”.
The reality is that until we are grateful for the things and people we have in our lives, our current situation exactly as it is, we will never be satisfied with the things we endlessly try to acquire.
As well-known monk and motivational figure Brother David Steindl-Rast says, we have it the wrong way round. “It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy”.
Steindl-Rast reiterates what many philosophers have said throughout history, and there is increasing scientific research which depicts a correlation between gratitude and both mental and physical well-being.
But it’s all too easy to get side-swept by everything that is going wrong, especially us British who (arguably) enjoy a good moan. Our busy and chaotic lives can cause us to become complacent and forget what a gift each day truly is. And because we can easily access the things we want and/or need in our day-to-day lives, we have come to expect rather than appreciate them.
Not often enough do we pause and take stock of all that we have, which is why I keep a ‘gratitude diary’ and implore you to do the same. At the same time each day (I do it just before bedtime, but when you do it is entirely up to you) I write 3-5 things I’m grateful for. It sounds simple, but can often be quite a poignant experience. What do I give thanks for? All kinds of things. I’m grateful for all those who take time to read this column, for all the encouragement I have received, as well as the criticism that has made me a better writer. I thank my loved ones for all they do for me. I thank strangers who’ve shown me kindness. I am grateful for problems and adversities life has thrown at me, because these have given me the opportunity to grow and to be creative. I’m grateful for the roof over my head, for hot bubble baths and cool drinking water. I’ve even written that I’m thankful for the pen and paper I am using to write what I am thankful for.
Even on a lousy day, say a customer has put you in a bad mood, or it’s not even 9 o’clock yet and a bus driving through a puddle has soaked you right though, you can turn your mood around by simply taking a moment to be happy with where you are and appreciate what you have. Remember to remind yourself that life is pretty wonderful.