Attitude of Gratitude
Written by Santhosh Vennamalla on 10-07-2019
When someone gives us something, we feel indebted; that we owe them and have to return it to them. This comes with the constant feeling of not really enjoying what we have received, because a part of us is always focussed on how and when we can be rid of the burden of the favour that was bestowed on us. But if we are spared of the condition to return the favour and are free to enjoy that blessing how would we react? Would we be filled with a sense of entitlement – that we deserved what we received? Be happy for a while, but just until the thought creeps in that they could have given us more? Or feel that it was not a big deal for the giver and not so really a great sacrifice deserving beyond a single utterance of thank you? Or would we be grateful that we were given something that we did not really work for or even ask for, and hence continue to show an attitude of gratitude?
How do we define gratitude? Here is the dictionary definition before we explore the topic in detail: the feeling or quality of being grateful; grateful itself meaning showing or expressing thanks. This of course is without the expectation of having to return the favour.
It was only last week that I came across a post on a friend’s Facebook wall that read: Try and go 24 hours without complaining and see how your life changes. Being as difficult as that is, not complaining is only being neutral. Having an attitude of gratitude calls us to be thankful for what has already been given to us. It is the sense of entitlement that makes us feel we deserve what we have and should actually be given more because we are special – with each of us finding some justification for why we should be treated special.
Gratitude has become one of the new mantras of the mental health care professionals. The Harvard Mental Health Letter says, “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” The benefits of gratitude include among others: increased happiness and positive mood, more satisfaction with life, less materialistic mindset, less likely to experience burnout, better physical health, better sleep, less fatigue, lower levels of cellular inflammation, greater resiliency and development of patience, humility, and wisdom.
But gratitude has been a virtue that we were called to exercise by our maker. The Old Testament in the Bible is replete with instances of individuals, clans, tribes and the entire nation of Israel offering thanksgiving sacrifices to God. The Psalms is filled with calls to give thanks to God for all that he has provided and for his righteousness. But how do we develop an attitude of gratitude when we feel that there is never enough, or that there are more challenges than blessings, or that sometimes when we are blessed with something it brings more responsibility with it?
Here are some things that we can do:
- Be appreciative or very small thing – there is nothing too little to deserve appreciation.
- Be thankful for adverse conditions too – they teach you and strengthen you.
- Practice mindfulness – make it a habit to acknowledge and be thankful for at least three things every day.
- Write down the pleasant surprises and positive experiences that contributed to your well-being and look back at them once in a while.
- Help others voluntarily. Not just at home with family but with organizations that help build people.
- Make sure you express your gratefulness – go out there and let the people you appreciate know of how you feel about what they did for you.
There are also examples in the Bible of how people grumbled when they felt they did not get enough (remember the murmuring over the same manna every day?) Complaining not denies us the opportunity to happily enjoy what we have, but it also gnaws away at the soul and heart and makes us bitter people who will eventually never be happy about anything.
The next time you feel there is nothing to be grateful for, let this sink in: We consume about 550 litres of pure oxygen per day. The market cost for a litre of pure oxygen is INR 3000 in the wholesale. I will leave the calculation to you as to how much you need to spend a day to just breathe the oxygen you need. But just remember that you are getting it for free. Is that a good starting point to start developing an attitude of gratitude