“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~Melody Beattie
It has been said that gratitude is the real bread of life; that without it life becomes bleak and bare and lacking in so many different ways. And yet, how many times do we actually stop to express our gratitude for what we have been given?
I’m not talking about common courtesy; saying thank you when someone does something for you and things of that ilk. No, I’m talking about real gratitude. I’m talking about a heartfelt appreciation for everything that you have in your life, no matter how small or insignificant you may consider it to be.
Believe it or not, even the poorest of those who will read this are better off than half the world’s population. For starters, you have the free time to be able to get onto a computer and surf the internet, not to mention that you have access to a computer. You probably have a roof over your head, clothes in your closet and food on your table as well. You have access to health care (or at least to an emergency room) and have more likely than not received some sort of an education and are able to read and write.
And these are just the fundamental basics! So many people don’t have even this, but that doesn’t stop them from being grateful! And so many of us have so much more than the basics and yet we are always looking for more.
But what about the intangible things?
What about those things that can’t be touted up on an accounting sheet or listed on a home inventory list?
What about friendship and love? What about caring and commitment? What about courage and integrity and creativity? Do we ever stop long enough in our headlong rush to be grateful for those things that lend the fabric of our lives such rich texture?
In spite of everything that we have; in spite of everything that we have been given, it is so very easy to take what you have for granted – until it isn’t there anymore. And then, once it’s gone; once it is gone and you can never get it back again, you feel like kicking yourself at every moment that you wasted; every opportunity that passed you by without your noticing.
Most times it is easy to be grateful. Indeed, when you have everything that you need; when life is sweet and full of interesting people and experiences, gratitude seems to come as naturally as breathing. We don’t even think about it. It is simply there.
And yet, there are times when being grateful is the last thing on your mind; when the pain is so deep and the darkness and despair so dark and suffocating that it seems that there is no way that you can ever find your way out. At these moments gratitude can seem as far away as the surface of the moon, and just about as helpful.
But what if I were to tell you that that is when you need it the most?
Because if you can’t remember the good things in your life, if you can’t bring to mind the bright moments of laughter and life and love that make everything worthwhile, those dark and depressing times can suck you down so far that you may never get out.
This is why it is so very important to practice daily gratitude.
I don’t care how you do it. Buy a journal, start a blog, post it on Facebook, Tweet it to all of your friends, send out a text message – whatever! But start today. List all the things that you are grateful for. Don’t just do this one time, do it every day.
In fact, make it a habit to find at LEAST five things to be grateful for every day.
On an awesome day you may take up pages listing all the things you are grateful for. On bad days you may only be able to list a handful. But believe it or not, this handful can make all of the difference.
You see, there may come a particularly bad day when those things that you have listed are the only things that keep you from giving up altogether; when one or two of the items on that list are all that keep you tethered to life. Those things will become your focus; your reason for living.
And believe it or not, if you can make it through the day; if you can focus on that handful of things that you DO have instead of those things that you do NOT have, eventually it will get better. In time the good things will begin to multiply again until once more you find your life to be overflowing with life and love, friendship and good fortune and once more life will be worth living.
All it takes is gratitude.
Personal Note: For me 2012 ended on a tragic note when I found that a close friend had killed themselves just after Christmas. I cherished every moment that we spent together and even though I had given them all the support and advice that I could – it wasn’t enough. In the end the pain and sadness that they felt overwhelmed them. They simply couldn’t find a reason to keep living. This is why this message is so important to me. Life is fragile and far, far too short; don’t let a moment of it go by unappreciated.
And please – PLEASE – if one of the things you are grateful for today is someone else; a friend or family member, let them know! Don’t assume that they already know. Just tell them. One day you will be glad that you did.