On Cultivating Gratitude

Learning is the only thing which distinguishes humans from animals

We are all products of our respective environment, upbringing, education and exposure to the outside world that includes our peer group, neighbours, relatives and other people. Right from our birth we learn many things around us day by day.

To start with, we learn how to stand, how to speak, how to run which is taught by our parents. In course of time we become different because we learn differently. Learning is a continuous process of life, the pinnacle of the attitude and vision of the universe. Learning is the only thing which distinguishes humans from animals. Being a human, we have a great privilege to think. Thinking is a great thing we all can do.

To quote our former President, APJ Abdul Kalam, “Learning process gives creativity, creativity leads to thinking, thinking provides knowledge, knowledge makes you great”. Learning is a stance taken by an individual that allows for the acquisition of information, attitudes, and practices, through observation, seeking previous knowledge, searching out guides, and looking within as well as without. If we stop learning and thinking, then there is no creativity and knowledge in our life. Every human being should make conscious efforts to learn new things and better his/her life. One trait that one must learn in one’s life is that of gratitude.

We all should remember that we always have more blessings than problems. Problems seem more because we count them, we measure them, and we analyze them every day. On the other hand, if we count our blessings, we shall realize that our blessings far outnumber our problems. Be happy. Be blessed. Just realize that, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” (Marcus Aurelius) Happiness isn’t about getting what you want all the time. It’s about loving what you have and being grateful for it. (Anonymous)

The new science of happiness starts with a simple insight: we’re never satisfied. “We always think if we just had a little bit more money, we’d be happier,” says Catherine Sanderson, a psychology professor at Amherst College, “but when we get there, we’re not.” Indeed, the more you make, the more you want. The more you have, the less effective it is at bringing you joy, and that seeming paradox has long bedeviled economists. “Once you get basic human needs met, a lot more money doesn’t make a lot more happiness,” notes Dan Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard University and the author of Stumbling on Happiness. Some research shows that going from earning less than $20,000 a year to making more than $50,000 makes you twice as likely to be happy, yet the payoff for then surpassing $90,000 is slight. And while the rich are happier than the poor, the enormous rise in living standards over the past 50 years hasn’t made people happier. The reasons: the law of diminishing retrns.

We overestimate how much pleasure we shall get from having more. Humans are adaptable creatures, which has been a plus during assorted ice ages, plagues and wars. But that’s also why we are never all that satisfied for long when good fortune comes our way. While earning more makes us happy in the short term, we quickly adjust to our new wealth - and everything it buys us. Yes, we get a thrill at first from shiny new cars and TV screens the size of Picasso’s Guernica. But we soon get used to them, a state of running in place that economists call the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation.”

On the other hand if we count our blessings and feel truly grateful for what we have and express genuine gratitude for it, our happiness will last much longer and may be it may become a habit with us. Expressing gratitude can lead to significant increases in subjective, psychological, spiritual, and physical well-being; the benefits of expressing gratitude are many. ‘Gratitude’ is a multi-layered, complex concept with multiple definitions. It can be regarded at many levels of analysis ranging from momentary effect to long-term dispositions (McCullough, 2004), as a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation (Sansone & Sansone, 2010), and as the recognition and appreciation of an altruistic gift (Emmons, 2004). There is a wealth of evidence reflecting on the benefits we derive from expressing gratitude and appreciation; such expressions evoke an array of psychological, social, and physical benefits that promote our psychological, social and physiological health (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010).

Hill, Allemand, and Roberts (2013) postulated that grateful individuals are better able to form social bonds, utilize coping skills to defer stress, maintain positive affect, and are more creative in problem solving. Bartlett, Condon, Cruz, Baumann, and Desteno (2012) suggested gratitude is related to increases in relationship satisfaction, social affiliation, and facilitates socially inclusive behaviors, even when those actions come at a personal cost to oneself.

Daily habits of intentionally recognizing and feeling gratitude are one of the highest emotional and vibrational states we can experience. When we cultivate gratitude, we are able to feel true joy and peace, no matter what we currently have or don’t have in our life. For those who understand how to use this power and practice it daily, they are able to attract more things into their lives to be thankful for.

Gratitude arms us with the necessary strength and perception to shift our focus from negative thought patterns towards positive patterns. Developing the habit of feeling and expressing gratitude will positively impact our career, personality, relationships, health, social life and what we experience in our reality. Instead of complaining about all the things we don’t have, we’ll begin to automatically focus on what we do have. In doing so, we become more aware of the blessings we already have in our lives and we begin to expect and appreciate more of those blessings that enter our life. We tend to believe that there is nothing life can throw at us that we cannot overcome. We begin to believe that our blessings are bigger than our problems. We are tapping into the positive energy within us and using this to shift our thoughts from suffering and pain to joy, peace, love and abundance. In turn we will start to notice improvements in our health, our mental state, our thoughts, our relationships, our performance, and a reduction in our stress, anxiety and fear.

If we are already grateful for something before it appears, then we are essentially vibrating at the same frequency as that which we want. We have a very powerful energy force that lies within us. Some call it a soul, our spirit, or our higher self. Science has proven that we are created out of energy. This energy vibrates so fast that it manifests in a physical form, our body. Our emotions are the energy that amplifies our thoughts. Our thoughts signal to the Universe, God, the Collective Consciousness, call it whatever we may like, what it is that we desire to create and have manifest into our reality. As we learn to increase our vibration energy and raise the frequency to that of love, peace and joy, the Universe will send that vibration match, the same energy that we are vibrating on, back into our life through people, places and circumstances that resonate with those same thoughts and feelings.

What we desire may not be here yet in the material sense, but it is there in the energy field within our world and the Universe. The more we make an effort to see the positive side in every situation, the more positive aspects we’ll notice. Not only do we recognize more of the good stuff, we’ll actually begin to attract it. Like attracts like! The more grateful we are for what we already have, the more good things we will attract to be grateful about. The more positive we are the more positive people we will attract. The more appreciative we feel about money, the more money you will attract. The key is to visualize how that relationship will feel or how that money will give us freedom. Focus on the feeling, the energy, not the object we want to hold. We desire things in life because of how they make us feel. When we receive what we manifested into our life, be grateful for it and more of that abundance will continue to come to us. Even a simple smile from a stranger matters. If we vibrate in gratitude for a simple smile, then think about the intensity of the energy we can emanate when the big things occur!

Let us specify a time each day to consciously appreciate everything we’ve encountered during the day; appreciate the people we interact with, the food we are blessed to eat, the family and friends that light up our life, the transportation that allows us to get to work, the rain that’s nourishing the plants and trees, and so on. Look for the good in all situations - even those we would normally view as negative.

Let us keep in mind that we should give thanks in everything. This even means the things that we feel don’t empower us at the moment. For example, if someone is telling us about mistakes or bad habits that we have, give thanks for the input because this information allows us to become more self-aware of our thoughts and actions which in turn allow us to create new thoughts and actions that will align us with those higher frequencies of love and abundance.

Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart; and nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness. “Learn to be thankful for what you already have, while you pursue all that you want.” (Jim Rohn)

Bhushan Lal Razdan, formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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