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When was the last time you said “thank you”? With all your heart? Everybody preaches that an “attitude of gratitude” is the key to success, but very few really practice it. Well, start by experience gratitude first, as in doing an experiment with it, and take it from there.
I once did a gratitude experiment. I decided to write down at the end of the day all the things I was grateful for. I created a sort of a gratitude journal. Didn’t plan in advance what to write, went with the flow. Each evening, five minutes.
After 30 days I re-read it. I was amazed by this simple fact: the things I was grateful for grew from one day to another. It was like feeding them with my gratitude. Looking back after 30 days made it obvious: I experienced more of what I was grateful for in my life.
Expressing gratitude doesn’t cost you anything, but it can bring you so much.
Why Gratitude Works
Every time I’m grateful, something interesting happens.
First of all, I reinforce the object of my gratitude. If, for instance, I’m grateful for my meal, I reinforce that meal, I validate it.
Second, I feel good about myself. You can’t be grateful if you feel bad about yourself. Ever tried this? It’s impossible. Gratitude reinforces you too, validates you as the source of it.
So, when you’re grateful, you create a bridge of feeling good between you and the object of your gratitude. That’s how gratitude works. It’s so simple to describe it, yet so difficult to experience it.
Why It’s Difficult To Experiment Gratitude
If it’s so simple to express it and to pass it along, why it’s so difficult to experience? Why it’s so hard to implement it in our day to day life?
Because we don’t really understand how things work, at the subtle level. We don’t understand what’s the cause of our feelings. We tie these feelings to external circumstances.
For instance, if it’s cloudy and raining, we feel depressed. Most of the time. But, sometimes, we’re not. There are moments when rain can be joyful and exhilarating, for instance on a very hot summer day. During those days, rain is a blessing.
Well, rain is rain. It’s the same thing in both situations. What changes is not rain, it’s our perception.
Alas, we’re not aware of that. We habitually link rain to depression and when that link is triggered by the actual meteorological phenomena, the depression goes out on auto-pilot. It’s just popping out from some hidden corner of our consciousness without asking for permission. Because it doesn’t need any permission at all: the moment when we linked it to some external circumstance, it got a green light. We don’t need to interfere. The process is created.
We live on auto-pilot, being driven by outside circumstances and swinging from one feeling to another, without control. And when it comes to gratitude, we find it difficult to express it because, as with every other feeling, we need some external circumstance to trigger it. And that circumstance is not always present.
For instance, during religious holidays, we are more inclined to experiment gratitude, because we learned that specific trigger before. We find it appropriate now. It’s normal.
During our day to day routine, we don’t do it because there’s no previous link. No social norm to respect, no trigger created. We don’t know if it’s appropriate or not.
But once we understand that expressing gratitude is not limited to a specific circumstance, the whole game changes.
And we feel grateful not because it’s allowed, or because our social norm (under the form of religion or politeness) allows us, but because we know it creates a bridge of well being between us and the object of our gratitude.