Gratitude and Happiness

Gratitude and Happiness

For most people, gratitude is usually a passing thought. But it can be, and should be, a continuous state of mind.

We've all felt gratitude at times. Gratitude is usually triggered by something that pleases us. We could be grateful that we made the train on time, we could be grateful that we have a good job or a good relationship, we could feel grateful for our family, or we could feel grateful for our very life.

Gratitude and happiness are intertwined. There are a number of ways to achieve happiness, two in particular. One is to just be happy, and that is the easier of the two. The other is to make the space in your mind to be happy. Doing that may require both leaving things that make you unhappy out of your life and taking actions that will lead you to a state of happiness.

At times it will be necessary to pretend happiness—to pretend positive things. Very intelligent and logical people often find this to be very difficult to do. It seems to defy logic that you can “fake” your way into a better state of mind. But you can. For example, when you wake up you can say, "What a beautiful sunrise!," even if you're extremely unhappy about circumstances in your life.

To put it differently, you can decide to be happy. That might not be easy to do, especially for people prone to negative thinking.

This might be compared to the experience a young child has when he or she is sent to bed early without being able to watch a movie with the rest of the family because the child has misbehaved. The child will likely cry hysterically no matter what you say to them. They will not relax their mind. You can try to communicate to the child that the feeling that he or she is experiencing will pass, but it's unlikely that the child will understand.

When we struggle as grownups and our emotions are overwhelming, we need to tell ourselves over and over again that whatever is contributing to our unhappiness will pass. Even if we don't feel as if the circumstance or attitude that is driving our unhappiness will pass, we have to keep saying that it will pass as if we believe it. There will be actions that we can take to improve our situation later, but in the beginning we have to first and foremost put positive thinking into play.

Gratitude is a state of mind more so than an emotion. You can even experience gratitude when you're feeling negative emotions. A person might feel sad about the loss of something. But they can still feel gratitude for having experienced the thing or situation before it was lost.

Sometimes I'll be driving along the highway with nothing in particular on my mind. I'll feel the exhilarating cool breeze, see the beautiful and varied green trees, be awed by the sunset, and then realize that it will be dark in a few moments. Rather than having a tinge of sadness because darkness is coming, I'll have a sense of gratitude that I am present then and there to experience those good things.

I know that it's better to come from a place of gratitude rather than a place of negativity. But sometimes the temptation to give in to a negative attitude is very strong. When I find myself losing control over my sense of gratitude, I find it very helpful to work on deep breathing exercises. When I do so, it floods my brain with oxygen, and my brain subsequently functions a lot better.

We spend a lot of time each day thinking about our problems. We should also spend time each day thinking about the things we are grateful for. Doing so is a powerful ancient technique for creating balance in the mind and balance in the consciousness. Think long and hard about the things that you have that you can be grateful for. Make a list of those things and keep it close to you. Read it often and breathe deeply when you do.

Perhaps you're having extreme difficulty getting yourself into a grateful state of mind. If so, I'd like to suggest a simple exercise. Find a place to sit quietly and still. Then, breathe deep and just say the word “gratitude” 100 times.

Gratitude is a very positive experience and it's not that difficult to achieve. It's easier to achieve gratitude than it is to achieve happiness. It's easier to achieve gratitude than it is to dissipate loneliness and anxiety. That's the case because for most of us there are things to be grateful for in front of us all the time.

We can be grateful to be alive. We can be grateful to be conscious. We can be grateful for all of the positive things that we've seen in the world. We can be grateful to have a mind and have the discipline to develop it. And we can be grateful for a huge list of other things.

Perhaps you're having more difficulty than most do at being grateful for things. If so, you must persist in developing an attitude of gratitude. Over time and with practice, being grateful for things can become a positive habit that you’ll develop.

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