“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”– Oprah Winfrey.
A view of the world in 2019
As members of the human species, we seem to find ourselves constantly challenged by a multitude of new complexities that are inherently interconnected with a modern society. How is this possible in a World that has unlimited opportunities and a World where we can literally create and become anything we desire? Well perhaps this is the problem – we imagine being and having everything that we currently do not.
The human race has established its position at the top of the food-chain in the hierarchy of species on this planet due to its ability to imagine things in the mind and create them in reality. Our inherent nature is a remarkable desire to grow, to progress and to evolve. We continue to contemplate what we want, what we could potentially have and what that would life would be like in hypothetical scenarios. If our minds had not developed in this way, humanity as we know it would not exist.
In the past century humanity has witnessed more political, social and economic change than ever previously experiences in the history of mankind. In 2019, there is less violence, murder, war, famine and disease than ever before. If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend that you read ‘Yuval Noah Harari’s’ phenomenal novel, ‘Sapiens’, which reflects upon how far humankind has evolved since the beginning of time.
Nevertheless, we are part of a society that has been known to fall into the mind-trap of wishing we had more; a bigger house, a nicer car, more holidays, more expensive clothes – a luxury lifestyle of ‘wealth and fortune’ and therefore, more happiness. I know this, because this used to be my view on life. We are part of a society that is continuously exposed to what we don’t have – a consumerist society dominated by marketing and advertising that persistently reminds of these things daily, hourly, even by the minute. Therefore, sometimes we are too focused on what we don’t have, on our misfortunes, that we miss the opportunity to see the blessings in life.
“My Life is just so hard”
How many of us in the past have been guilty of using these words? Or perhaps we haven’t explicitly used the words – but how many have adopted this mentality? That life is unfair, sometimes ‘playing the victim’ when things don’t quite go the way that we would like them to. I’ll put my hand up and say I certainly have, under circumstances that definitely did not justify this attitude, but in hindsight, it’s the thoughts themselves that actually cause the most suffering.
A couple of years ago I read an incredibly powerful book that probably lead to the biggest change in my life, ‘Mans Search for Meaning’ by the brilliant Viktor Frankl. He articulates his experience in Auschwitz so vividly, describing an experience that no human should ever have to go through, reflecting upon the unspeakable things he witnessed. Yet, despite all of this, Frankl still managed to maintain a positive outlook on his life. Frankl realises that man is determined by how he stands up to his conditions and we have the freedom to choose our response under any circumstance.
Not so long ago, I read another exceptionally moving novel called ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’, written by Maya Angelou, who Michelle Obama described as the most phenomenal woman she has ever known. In the book, Maya convey’s some truly horrifying experiences, which just like Frankl’s, are very difficult to read and contemplate.
This is when it occurred to me, that if I am finding it so hard to read about these events, then I can’t even begin to contemplate what it must have been like to live through them. Yet, despite these circumstances, these people managed to maintain a positive outlook on their life. It’s empowering and inspiring humans like these two, that really put our own lives into perspective and enlighten us to how fortunate most of us really are.
If this isn’t eye-opening, I don’t know what is.
Let’s not take life for granted. Any of it. Let’s appreciate the little things in Life. The happiest people make the best of everything, because they realise that no matter what, we have the power and ability to choose how we perceive any event, period.
Nelson Mandela reflects profoundly on the moment he was set free from spending a quarter of his life imprisoned: “As I walked out the door towards the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
The concept of Gratitude and shifting your perspective can unshackle your resentment to certain aspects and experiences in your life.
The fact of the matter is you can cultivate feelings of happiness or sadness by thinking of different experiences and times in your life. Choose the happy ones.
Deepak Chopra poses a thought-provoking question, “If money was no concern and you had all the time in the world, what would you do?”
Ultimately, nothing that you ever gain, materially speaking, will make you happy. They may give us temporary moments of joy, but ultimately it’s our perspective on life that gives it true meaning. All you ever need to be happy is within You right now. Believing that you need something that you don’t already have, something outside of yourself, is literally the craziest idea. You EXIST without it. Happiness will never be measured by what you have, but by what You are… You can lose what you have – You will never lose what You are. Money will never cultivate happiness, it will not change how You see your life, it will simply magnify the thoughts that you already had about it.
Having said that, there is nothing wrong with wanting these things, but we can’t allow them to determine our level of happiness and contentment in life. We should be grateful for what we had, for what we will have, but most importantly for what we currently have, paying particular attention for how fortunate we may be in comparison to others.
Let us recognise that If we die tomorrow, we can’t take any of it with us, but instead then let us be thankful for the great times, thankful for providing this opportunity to experience human existence; to have existed.
“Remember that your real wealth can be measured not by what you have, but by what you are.”– Napoleon Hill.
Perhaps you’re still sat there wondering what on earth the meaning of the title of this article; it’s a principle that I like to remind myself of daily – no matter where you are, where you live, what car you drive, how much you earn, what brands of clothing you wear:
Remember_ We are all born naked.
A natural cure for anxiety and depression
There is scientific principles and biochemical benefits of developing a gratitude mindset. Being grateful is a catalyst the brain uses to achieve an increase of dopamine and serotonin in the brain – neurotransmitters that create those feelings of happiness and contentment. Being grateful literally instigates a change in our brain chemistry.
Gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus, a part of the brain which regulates stress; it also stimulates the ventral tegmental, a producer of pleasure. If we practice gratitude, we demonstrate increased neuro-sensitivity in the prefrontal cortex – the part which has neuro links to the production of dopamine and serotonin, through its decision-making structure and interconnection with the amygdala.
Scientific studies have identified and demonstrated the correlation between regularly being grateful for things in our lives and the reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Gratitude will help overcome that shadow of darkness that might be in reign over our mind. It will help create a healthy mind, enhancing a happy, fulfilled and positive life.
My daily Gratitude practice
In my battle with anxiety and depression, adopting a daily practice for what I am grateful for was absolutely fundamental for my recovery. For about eighteen months I spent half an hour each morning reminding myself of everything that I have to be grateful for in my life. I have articulated these things below and the reasons I found them so empowering – feel free to adapt them for Your own purpose.
- Be grateful for each day and each moment that lead to this day. – No matter what, because you have the opportunity to create something new, today.
- Be grateful for your eyes so that you can see and witness the beauty of this world; your arms so that you can grab those important to you; your legs that carry you on an adventure in this world; and every other part of your physical body. – Don’t take these things for granted.
- Be grateful for your fitness and health, your energy and vitality. – Perhaps you’re not in the condition you would like, but at least you have the opportunity to get to that condition and the reward of the accomplishment at the end.
- Be grateful for your Mum, your Dad, your family and friends. – You may not always share the same perspective, but be grateful for the unconditional Love.
- Be grateful for everyone who comes into your life. – Regardless of the outcome, it’s the opportunity to share an experience, to learn something, and to create a positive impact.
- Be grateful for your academic career. – No matter how highly you achieved; not everyone in the world has these opportunities.
- Be grateful for your professional career. – You may not have always loved what you do, you may still not; but at least you learned some lessons along the way. And at least you’ve had a job.
- Be grateful for your financial circumstances. – I can guarantee if you’re reading this you have far much more financial wealth than half the world’s population.
- Be grateful for the places you have seen and travelled. – You had the opportunity to experience different cultures, meet new characters and open up your perspective of the world.
- Be grateful for your darkest moments, your toughest times. – It might not have been easy, it may still not be easy; but you are who you are today because of them, and if you’re not there yet, you have a lifetime to create who You are.
- Be grateful for the journey you’re on. – We are all on one.
- Be grateful for the happiness and the experience everyone else is having in their own life. – There is seven billion of us, we wish them the greatest life.
- Be grateful for the opportunity to live and experience this incredible gift of life. – Perhaps you can’t find the words to be grateful for the ‘above’, so just be grateful for the fact you are here; this in itself was a one – in – four hundred trillion chance according to scientists.
To this day, I still follow a similar morning gratitude practice, but the list is more consolidated, and I now consider things each day that I can be grateful for. I also found that starting a gratitude journal in the morning now allows me to articulate my thoughts in a way that makes them ‘real’.
I end every day by thinking about three things I can be grateful for that day. Even if we have a shite day, just recollect your thoughts a bit more, there is always something to be grateful for.
The greatest trick I have found though: next time your mind begins to wonder, or you cascade into overthinking mode – when you notice this, just remind yourself of something, anything that you are grateful for.
All we really need to do is have an unconditional commitment to loving life. Practicing gratitude will elevate your self-esteem and cultivate profound feelings of happiness within yourself.
Eight benefits of Gratitude
So, what actually is the purpose of being grateful? Does it actually work? Or are you just wasting your time? There would appear to be a whole variety of reasons to be grateful, but I have come across and have experienced eight that I have listed below, which seem to be the most common. The number or benefits is really irrelevant, because the value of being grateful is unquantifiable.
- Greater Life satisfaction and appreciation.
- Cultivates stronger social relationships.
- Increased happiness levels.
- Reduced stress levels and potential to burnout – catalyst for better physical and mental health.
- More humble and down to earth.
- Reduced effects of anxiety and depression
- Increased sleep quality – elevated energy levels.
- Stronger optimism for the prospects of life.
I guess, if it makes you and those around you feel good, then that’s all that really matters. Be thankful; be grateful – it’s contagious. Don’t believe me, give it a try.
The law of attraction
The great_ Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is everything, it is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
I do not intend to discuss the topic of the law of attraction in depth in this post; because the purpose here is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for everything that we have, not so much the manifestation of that which we don’t yet.
However, there seems to be an unwritten rule at work in the universe whereby when we’re grateful for that which we desire, consciously, we then create it in our life. But maybe that’s not what this power was intended for…
Eckhart Tolle said,“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
In other words, if you get grateful for all the good in your life, whatever that is, even if it is just one thing, then more good things will show up. In simple terms; be grateful for a smile, then you will get to experience another one – it’s a compounding effect.
Let us live a life of gratitude.
If from reading this, you take just one thing away_ practice gratitude; before you go to sleep tonight – and then practice it again tomorrow as soon as you wake up. Remember, it’s not just about being grateful for the big things, because you might miss the little things in life. What can we be grateful for today? Gratitude is said to be the most empowering emotion in the human experience, and we can all find something to be grateful for.
Gratitude cultivates_ Happiness.