Are you a prisoner of ingratitude?
Gratitude is the gateway to abundance. It is an essential part of the Law of Attraction.
Try this thought experiment: Imagine yourself in a dream. You are trapped in a dark and gloomy place behind tall walls. Your existence is miserable and you know you deserve better.
You also know – because you can see through the bars – that beyond the walls there lies a life of joy and personal greatness. If only you could get out.
As you explore your prison, you come across a locked gate in the wall. If only you had the key.
Then, in your dream, a gentle but firm voice tells you: “These prison walls are the limitations within your own mind. But outside that gate stands Gratitude. Gratitude will free you from your limitations. It is the gateway to abundance and personal greatness. Let Gratitude in and it will let you out. And the key to the gate lies within you.”
Why is gratitude the gateway to abundance?
You may be familiar with the great motivational book Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.
It is interesting that Peale did not dwell much on Gratitude as a driving concept. But, nonetheless, when reading his book one can feel the urge to gratitude permeating it. In fact, in our opinion, the practice of gratitude is what actually puts the power into positive thinking.
What can gratitude do for us?
The great motivational speaker and writer, William Arthur Ward, once said: “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
So, what is gratitude, anyway?
For our first clues, let’s look at the origin of the word “gratitude.” It comes from the Latin root “gratus,” meaning “pleasant, agreeable, welcome.” It is also associated with such positive words as grace, gratuity, and gratis.
And, further back in time, the word “gratus” is rooted in the Proto-Indo-European word gwere. This means to praise, celebrate; be in contact with the Divine. So to be grateful is to feel the presence of the Divine in our lives.
Use of the word gratitude
In common usage, the word “gratitude” often means no more than acknowledging a small service. This is when we say “thank you” to the waiter who brings our meal or to the thoughtful person who holds a door open for us.
But the true use and purpose of the word go beyond this. A religiously neutral 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous recognizes a “Higher Power,” whomever the individual conceives that to be.
Most of us do not feel that we exist in a vacuum of nothingness. Rather we have a sense of belonging to the Divine, whether it be God, Gaia, the Universe, or whatever your belief.
So, where we use the word “God,” feel free to substitute the name of your own “higher power.” And a highly recommended resource on this is David Steindl-Rast.
Gratitude is really a quality of being. More than 2,000 years ago, Marcus Tullius Cicero, a Roman scholar, philosopher, and statesman described gratitude as the greatest of virtues and the parent of all others.
A quality of being
As a quality of being, Gratitude is a feeling that can be deeply felt and just as deeply expressed. When you said “thank you” to that waiter, it was no big thing but the waiter felt it on some level. It made a positive difference to him.
Experiencing gratitude banishes negative feelings. This happens both when we receive gratitude and also when we bestow it. And the time and energy we focus on increasing the gratitude around us will start to banish all the negative thinking we were experiencing in the dream prison we started in.
We like to think of Gratitude as a mental and spiritual practice that can be mastered, practiced, and put into action, for the benefit of ourselves and others around us. The practice of gratitude starts with a conscious choice and gradually becomes a way of life. And this is the way out of that prison gate and into a world of personal greatness and happiness.
Giving thanks to God opens a pathway to God. It’s a two-way street. Because coming back towards us is God’s blessing and abundance.
How gratitude affects us
Here is an excellent post on the neuroscience of gratitude. It describes the positive effects of gratitude and how it affects every area of our lives; our psyche, our bodies, and our social lives.
We all have personality traits. These are within our individual nature and are influenced by our upbringing. So our natural outlook on life can range from dour pessimism to sunny optimism. Unfortunately, for most of us, our life experiences tend to place us at the pessimistic end of the spectrum.
But we need to understand that pessimism and optimism are choices. When we look at our lives we must decide whether we are going to continue with pessimism or embrace a life of optimism. We hope it’s the latter. And you do it by choosing and practicing gratitude.
When you practice gratitude, you are adopting a positive attitude to life. Gratitude naturally focuses you on all the things you have to be grateful for. And, obviously, these are all positive things. Once you understand this, you are well on the way to acquiring the power of positive thinking that we mentioned earlier.
By focusing on the things we have to be grateful for, we are actively choosing a positive outlook on life. This brings with it greater happiness and a better quality of life.
When you set out to do anything worthwhile in life, you have to plan and practice in order to perfect it. This takes initial action and then establishes an ongoing routine.
Here are some specific steps to take on your way to practicing gratitude.
Initial time to reflect
Choose a quiet time later in the day and set aside 10 minutes. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed and sit down with a notepad. Adopt a mental posture of mindfulness by getting comfortable, closing your eyes, and taking a few easy breaths, while focusing on your breathing.
Then reflect gently on your life and come up with10 things that you have to be grateful for. They can be anything, big or small. They can be things that happened at any time in your life. They can include the people in your life. Ask yourself why you are grateful. Write it down.
One day’s mindful reflection
For the next 24 hours make an effort to keep gratitude in your mind. Be actively conscious of it. Take note of all the things, big and small, that happened during the day that you are grateful for.
Then find a quiet time at the end of the day, put yourself in a state of meditative mindfulness as described above, and write down all the points of gratitude you noted during the day.. Explain to yourself briefly but in writing why each item makes you grateful, why it is important to you.
This exercise in mindfulness will help you focus on the present moment and not worry about the past or future. It will help you develop and nurture your sense of gratitude going forward. As you think of the things you are grateful for, create happy mental pictures in your mind.
The act of writing this all down has the effect of reinforcing your positive mindset going forward. And this is the beginning of your Gratitude Journal.
Keep a daily Gratitude Journal. This can be any old notebook. Or you might consider one of the Gratitude Journals available online that have been created specifically for the purpose. They can help you organize your thoughts. They can also inspire you with quotes related to gratitude.
Put yourself in a state of mindful meditation and then use the journal as a tool with which you can repeat the 24-hour reflection record described above. Write your reflections down in the journal.
Maintaining a Gratitude Journal will help you keep gratitude top of mind. In this way, you will reinforce your determination to experience and think of life in a positive frame of mind.
And in this post, we capitalize Gratitude Journal because it is such an important element in the practice of gratitude.
Other aids to gratitude
1: Coloring book: Many people find it helpful to reflect on and internalize gratitude with the aid of a gratitude coloring book. These are coloring books created with gratitude-related quotes, phrases, and affirmations that can be colored. There are many benefits to adult coloring books, quite aside from gratitude exercises.
2: Subliminal affirmations: Another aid to acquiring a mindset of gratitude are subliminal affirmations. These are found in videos, typically on YouTube, that have been created with meditative, sleep-inducing music and binaural beats.
Gratitude affirmations are played subliminally in the background. The visuals are usually relaxing scenes of Nature. You listen to them as you sleep, rather than watch them. In fact, these videos double as a sleep aid.
3: Gratitude reminders: gratitude is a habit to be cultivated. So help yourself by surrounding yourself with reminders to be grateful. Here are some simple ways to do this:
- Gratitude stone: Keep a small “gratitude stone” in your pocket. You can find these online with the word “gratitude” engraved on them. And, if you are into crystals, a piece of smooth amethyst is a nice thing to have. There is no need to be elaborate. You can assign a meaning of gratitude to any small emblem.
- Audible smartphone reminder: set up a smartphone reminder. This is a really useful prompt when it comes time to attend to your Gratitude Journal.
- Post-it notes: stick them where you can see them.
- Calendar reminders: give yourself reminders in your smartphone and desktop calendars; or the calendar on the wall..
- RefrigeratorMagnet: Put a gratitude reminder magnet on your refrigerator.
4: Gratitude benefits list: make yourself a short list of all the benefits that you want gratitude to bring you. Just for example, here are some you can choose from.
Use the ones that resonate with you and make your own list.
- Awareness of the abundance already in your life
- Awareness of potential abundance in your life
- Minimizing the stress in your life
- Increasing optimism about the future
- Increasing resilience when dealing with stress
- Reducing depression or anxiety
- Increasing physical activity in your life
- Improving physical health
- Improving your sense of community
Learning to overcome negative emotions
As you practice gratitude in your life, you will find that it becomes easier to counteract negative emotions in the face of challenging situations. You will find your mind adopting a posture of positivity when you encounter stress.
Practicing gratitude has a way of squeezing negativity out of your life. And this will equip you to deal with what is in front of you with energy, positivity, and effectiveness.
This is not to say that you will live a life in a bubble of unrelenting optimism. After all, we do live in a real and sometimes harsh world. Rather, this attitude of gratitude will help you shield yourself mentally against those “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”
Over time you will become more resilient when dealing with life’s problems. You will become a more creative and efficient problem solver.
Gratitude and relationships
Gratitude strengthens relationships. It makes sense that, if you are genuinely grateful to and for the partner you are with, then that relationship is naturally strengthened. You will more likely cherish and enjoy the relationship and work hard to keep the relationship going. And it is natural for your partner to reciprocate.
Obviously, no amount of gratitude is going to save a relationship that is doomed to fail and that probably shouldn’t have been entered into in the first place. But that is not what we are addressing here. Rather we are talking about lifetime relationships and friendships that can be consciously nurtured through the practice of gratitude.
It starts by appreciating your partner or friend more closely. No more taking her or him for granted. Think about why it is that you enjoy spending time with your partner or friend. Savor and remember the moments. Note these in your Gratitude Journal.
Make a habit of doing this and of expressing your gratitude to your partner or friend. This can only be reciprocated. And this will strengthen the relationship.
Learn gratitude by spreading it
This simply involves the giving of your time, effort, and appreciation. Here are two solid ways to do it.
Volunteer your time
When you give back, you cultivate gratitude in your life. So, take time to help others who are less fortunate. It’s a way of making yourself more grateful for the things in your life that you might otherwise take for granted.
Letters and notes
Find opportunities to write thank-you notes. This goes beyond the socially obligatory “thank-you letters” for gifts received on special occasions, like weddings and birthdays.
Rather, think back to events or interactions with people from which you benefited, even in some small way. For example, this could just be a funny joke that somebody told you that lightened your day and made you laugh. Send an appreciative email.
Thank you notes have a positive effect on the person receiving them. And making people feel good is doing good.
Gratitude and your goals
Gratitude does not run counter to ambition. Gratitude does not turn you into a squish. And just because you are grateful for what you have does not mean that you cease striving for more great things to be grateful for.
In fact, gratitude can help you with your ambitions. Once you recognize the things you are grateful for, you are in a better position to identify and focus on the things that really matter to you. It allows you to press forward with the goals in your life that are important.
Furthermore, the practice of gratitude is conducive to problem-solving and the harnessing of personal energy, all in the determined pursuit of the goals you have identified.
No whining or complaining
Practicing gratitude is all about staying positive. And the flip side of this is avoiding the negative. This is not to say that you will not experience negative situations. You certainly will. Everybody does.
But to advance your practice of gratitude, you need to promise yourself that, if anything goes wrong in your life, you will never whine or complain about it. When you whine and complain, you are being ungrateful and therefore sabotaging your practice of gratitude.
Of course to “never” whine or complain is a very tall order. So start off by giving yourself a more realistic mini-challenge. Something like: “I promise that for the next 24 hours I won’t whine or complain about anything.” This is a much more manageable goal and it will focus your attention. Give it a shot. And, if you fail, give yourself another 24 hours.
The whole point is that, with practice, you will find yourself focusing more and more on the positive things, eliminating negative thoughts, and advancing your practice of gratitude.
Doing the right thing and the kind thing
One of the greatest expressions of one’s own gratitude to God is, first, always doing the right thing and, second, always doing the kind thing. And here is a cautionary thing to remember. A wise and observant person (we don’t know who) once said:
“All the bad days have two things in common: you know the right thing to do, but you let someone talk you out of it.”
So always follow your conscience. Do the right and the kind thing. It will come back to you in personal greatness.
A helpful symbol of Abundance
The modern-day symbol of Gratitude is a Celtic spiral, to which has been added a series of three dots and the Hawaiian makau or fish hook symbol.
- The spiral represents the eternal cycle of change and renewal.
- The dots are a mathematical representation of an infinite list. These are the things we are grateful for.
- The fish hook represents abundance, energy, and strength.
The symbol is a reminder to us that we should always be practicing gratitude in the moment.
This short essay only scratches the surface of Gratitude. But let’s conclude by reminding ourselves of these four things:
First, Gratitude frees us from our mental prison of self-limitation.
Second, Gratitude puts the power into the power of positive thinking and propels us into a world of abundance and personal greatness.
Third, Gratitude deepens personal relationships.
Fourth, Gratitude connects us to God.
All four can be ours. We just need to practice gratitude in a mindful, consistent, and grateful way.
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