When was the last time you felt sorry for your self? How about annoyed?
Think about the last time you felt low, for whatever reason. What thoughts were going through your head? If you examine your mental talk track during low periods, you’ll likely find one common theme: An absence of gratitude.
Think about the most depressed, or angry, or lonely, or mean people you know. How much gratitude do they experience? Chance are, little to none. Negative people resist gratitude. Some will even argue with you feverishly to assert their negative worldview.
I was speaking to a friend recently who, despite good overall life circumstances, was depressed and anxious about several issues. I tried to point out all the good things in his life, and help him see the reality: his current challenge was merely temporary. But it was to no avail. He agreed intellectually, yes, overall things were good, but his emotions were stuck in negativity.
So I asked him, what he was grateful for? He started small, a good dinner. Then I asked what else, he went on to say he was grateful for his home, his job, and his family. Within six sentences his entire countenance changed. He went from slumped shoulders and frowning to sitting up straight and smiling.
Gratitude is the gateway drug to happiness. It’s an instant mood lifter and it’s the secret to loving your life and the people around you. It is literally impossible to feel bad about your life when you’re in a state of gratitude. As my friend author Mike Robbins says, “Gratitude and victimhood can’t coexist.” The happiness you create for yourself with gratitude is contagious.
Look at anyone who feels like life is treating them wrong, you’ll see a total absence of gratitude. When you’re stuck in victimhood – be it lifelong victimhood or anger at the driver who cut you off on the freeway – you’re only thinking about yourself. It might not seem like self-focus when you’re feeling wronged by a boss or spouse, but in that state, all your attention is on your own negative feelings. Victimhood takes the negative aspect of a situation, pulls it inward and keeps it there.
Gratitude is different. Standing in gratitude is about seeing the good, bringing it in, and then it naturally radiates back out. For me, gratitude is not a pious head down, taking only meager offerings attitude. Gratitude is a head up smiling openhearted glow.
My husband and I were talking about our parents recently, all four of whom are now deceased. We realized the happiest one of the four by leaps and bounds was my father. He was also the one who was most grateful. That’s not a coincidence.
It’s also not a coincidence that of our four parents, my father lived the longest and experienced the most personal and professional success in his life. Gratitude makes you healthier, and more enthusiastic about life in general.
Gratitude is funny. We’re attracted to it, when we see it in others, but it’s harder to cultivate in ourselves. Bosses, parents, and spouses often complain, their employees, kids, spouses aren’t grateful enough. But complaining that others aren’t grateful enough rarely makes them more grateful, and it actually keeps you in a state of victimhood yourself.
If you want yourself and the people around you to be happier, say or make a gratitude list. Gratitude, really is the gateway drug to happiness.