This article is part of a series of articles unpacking different emotions. It is inspired by Andrew Fuller’s book, ‘A to Z of Feelings’.
Being grateful is a form of love. It is to recognise the beauty in something we already have. When we look at something and see it for more than just its features and functions. To stare into a dog’s eyes and feel so lucky to be sharing this very moment with them. In order to appreciate something, we have to acknowledge the skill, luck, circumstances and everything that contributed to making this very moment possible. Doing this connects us to the miraculous and wondrous in this world.
Despite this, we have a tricky relationship with gratitude. It can appear to run in direct conflict with ambition. In order to strive for more we cannot sit down and appreciate what we have. We cannot accept a mediocre situation on the basis that it could be much worse. These concepts are at odds with our desires to improve the situation we find ourselves in. We feel that if we adopt a position of gratitude, we will become dangerously complacent. To become grateful we need to remove this blocker. A failure to appreciate what we currently have is likely a deeper underlying problem that will plague us even if we reach the highest heights of our ambitions.
Gratitude is often spurred on by a personal connection with hardship and loss. A near death experience makes us grateful to be alive, time away makes us grateful for our loved ones, finding a lost phone makes us grateful to have a phone. If everything works perfectly all the time, we don’t appreciate it, we expect it. The ability to connect with a bleaker alternative in life can help us appreciate our current reality.
There are physical signs of gratitude. Looking at the sky, smiling, extended exhalation of breath, calm demeanour and relaxed stance. Being grateful can also have positive impacts on your brain and how you function.
- Improved immune function
- Decreased stress levels
- Fewer aches and pains
- Optimal blood pressure and heart function
- Better sleep
- A higher volume of grey matter in the right inferior temporal gyrus (this can improve cognitive function)
Admiration, wonder, lucky, awe, curiosity, creative, open, appreciation, amazement, respect, honour, value, love
What you can do that helps
- Walk along a street and imagine yourself being an enthusiastic sports commentator, documenting your every step. Turn on a tap, water comes out. Flick a switch, light comes on. You have access to things even the richest people of past times couldn’t have even dreamed of. It doesn’t have to be huge or exciting. The magic is in the small things.
- Choose to be lucky. There is flexibility in the way we view things. It is easy to consider our lives as boring or as a disaster. Flip the narrative and consider how lucky you are. Open your eyes to the miraculous. You can begin by considering the statistical probability that you are even here right now. You are the beneficiary of your ancestors. All of those good people who, for at least 1.5 millions years, have helped you to be here.
- Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.
Wishing you well on your wellbeing journey!