Gratitude is a spontaneous feeling and one of the most powerful generators of happiness. When you experience gratitude, your body and mind are aligned and at peace. Research has demonstrated that practicing mindfulness and gratitude, being present and making a conscious effort to be reflective on one’s life and to appreciate its blessings, can generate emotions of pure optimism and confidence.
We often focus on the negative aspects of our lives, like what could have been better; which can trigger feelings of stress, sadness, resentment, or even low self-esteem. In psychology, the reciprocal inhibition theory states you can’t feel two contradicting states at the same time. As an example, it’s impossible to be sad and grateful simultaneously. Fortunately, through the practice of mindful awareness, you can train your mind toward gratitude.
This is the only life you have, so don’t overlook your blessings. Take every opportunity to tell your loved ones how special and precious they are to you. Now is all you have – This precious time and awareness is your chance. We don’t know when we’ll die, so don’t waste your time not feeling grateful and sharing your life with loved ones. Life is not going to wait for you.
The Music Man, a musical with lyrics by Meredith Willson, contains one of his better quotes: “You pile up enough tomorrows and you’ll be left with nothing but a bunch of empty yesterdays. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to make today worth remembering. Never let the demands of tomorrow interfere with the pleasures and excitement of today.”
Start practicing mindfulness with an emphasis on gratitude. In Sam Harris’ mindfulness app, “Waking Up”, which HereToday highly recommends, he writes of the power of gratitude, and how we have the ability to instantaneously access it to lift our mood and appreciate life’s blessings. Below is a transcription of Sam’s 3 minute audio presentation, A Lesson on Gratitude, found on his app.
A Lesson on Gratitude by Sam Harris
“I’d like to talk for a few minutes about gratitude. There’s now a lot of research that suggests that gratitude is good for us.
And, as an emotion it is very easy to invoke. Unless you are living the worst possible life, it should be easy to find something for which you’re grateful. And it can be very skillful and wise to do this.
Now one reflection I find myself doing when I’m in some ordinary contracted state of mind—let’s say I’m stressed-out by something not going well, I’m reacting to some hassle. I could be caught in traffic and late for an appointment—I sometimes think of bad things that haven’t happened to me.
I might think that I haven’t been diagnosed with a fatal illness. I’m not caught in a war zone. And I think of all the people on earth in that moment who are suffering those sorts of dislocations in their lives.
And then I reflect that if I were in their shoes, I would be desperate to get back to precisely the situation I’m now in: just stuck in traffic and late for an appointment, but without any care in the world.
I noticed this at dinner the other night with my family. Everyone seemed to be in a fairly mediocre frame of mind. We were all in some way disgruntled or stressed-out. I had a million things I was thinking about. And I suddenly noticed how little joy we were all taking in one-another’s company.
And then I thought: “If I had died yesterday and could have had the opportunity to be back with my family…” I thought of how much I would savor this moment with my family right now. And it totally transformed my mood. It gave me instantaneous access to my best self. And a feeling of pure gratitude for the people in my life.
Just think of what it would be like to lose everything and then be restored to the moment you’re now in—however ordinary. You can reboot your mind in this way, and it need not take any time.
The truth is, you know exactly what it’s like to feel overwhelming gratitude for your life. And if you have the freedom and the free attention to listen to this lesson right now…You are in an unusual situation.
There are at least a billion people on earth at this moment who would consider their prayers answered if they could trade places with you. There are at least a billion people who are suffering debilitating pain, or political oppression, or the acute stages of bereavement.
To have your health—even just sort-of.
To have friends—even only a few.
To have hobbies or interests, and the freedom to pursue them.
To have spent this day free from some terrifying encounter with chaos is to be lucky.
Just look around you, and take a moment to feel how lucky you are.
You get another day to live on this earth. Enjoy it.”
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This post was written for educational purposes and is not meant to substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified provider.