Exploring Gratitude and how it could evoke a steady state of happiness within us
‘It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy” ~David Steindl Rast
Gratefulness and Happiness, are two very powerful emotions that have an immense influence on our state of being.
We all seek happiness and strive towards achieving it in various ways. Ancient Greek Philosopher Aristotle spoke about two kinds of happiness. ‘Hedonia’, is achieved through pleasure and ‘Eudaimonia’, is achieved through seeking virtue and meaning. More recently psychologists have added a third, engagement, which involves ‘Commitment and Participation’.
Circumstances and activities evoke different levels and types of happiness. Let us explore how gratitude or gratefulness could evoke a steady state of happiness within us.
Let us start by understanding our personal co-relation between happiness and gratefulness.
If you were asked to rate your level of gratitude and happiness when you started planning a long-awaited holiday or planning a celebration of a special day or event.
What was the level of excitement, joy and happiness you sensed within while planning it?
Take a moment to recreate it, so you can rate it on a low to high scale of 1 to 10.
Were you THINKING “When I get there…
Or were you FEELING, “this is fantastic…
Did you, at a conscious level feel the vibration that life has been good to you?
Now fast forward to the end of the holiday or celebration and you’re back into your routine.
What is the level of happiness, joy and excitement you sense. Rate it.
Do you sense this level of happiness diminishing?
Is it simply leaving you a little bit empty inside?
Does this mean we constantly need external stimulation to feel a certain level of happiness?
Can all the experiences of the holiday or special celebration be etched in our hearts forever?
Such Satori moments, meaning sudden enlightenment in Japanese, can become our storehouse of gratefulness and happiness.
If we are conditioned to the present moment feelings of gratitude and happiness which fade over time, we could possibly lose the long-term value and benefaction it has in our lives.
Adopting and building an ‘Attitude of Gratitude’ is like building muscles, it needs consistent deliberate focus and attention until it becomes an integral part of our outlook on life. The more we build it, the easier we experience gratitude and happiness in everything. As it is said, ‘if you want to find happiness, find gratitude.’
In Melody Beattie’s words
‘Gratitude makes sense of your past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow’
Life as we know it, is in a constant state of flux and there are bound to be moments in our lives when we experience loss, crisis, challenges. In these moments drawing on our strong muscles of ‘attitude of gratitude’ will help us see how each loss or pain is presenting itself as a platform on which we can transform an obstacle into an opportunity to experience personal and collective growth, in Japanese these are called Kensho moments.
We have all experienced Kensho in our lives. Take a moment to understand what you gained through the years?
Did you find and develop new skills?
Did you become a beacon of light for others around you?
Did the poet, the writer, the musician, the artist in you surface?
Did you develop a new appreciation and value for what you have?
Are you looking at life through new eyes?
This brings us to the question?
So what can we do each day to build this ‘attitude of gratitude’ and state of happiness so that it becomes integral to our authentic selves?
* Seize every opportunity to feel grateful for small and big blessings in our lives. – Our Satori experiences
* Each time we worry or feel overwhelmed, remind ourselves of times when we learned, we grew and we changed, from having a Kensho experience.
* No matter how tough a situation may feel, we recognize it, accept it for what it is and recognize that we have the ability to find solutions.
* Taking responsibility of our attitude towards life and the world. We are in control of our lives.
* Acknowledging the distinction between ‘FEELING grateful’ and ‘BEING grateful’
‘Feeling Grateful’ is generally evoked from an external experience. ‘Being Grateful’ is when no matter what the external factors are in one’s life, the state of being grateful is not lost.
* Having a ritual or prayer daily to reaffirm the blessings that make you feel happy and grateful.
* Recognize the difference between conditional gratitude and happiness over unconditional gratitude and happiness.
* Invest energy and time on recognizing and building your purpose, your ‘reason for being’, your Ikigai.
* Recognizing that when we flow in life with gratitude and happiness, the ones we connect with can feel inspired and learn from us.
*If by any chance you are habituated to the IF, THEN model, simply understand it and reframe the self-message. “I love my life, I am worth it, I am blessed and I enjoy all the blessings life gives me, I am always open to additional blessings in life.”
As we celebrate the start of a New Year, feel grateful and happy for the many blessings you have., When we consciously pause to understand the correlation of these two very powerful and influencing emotions we acknowledge there is truth in the words, ‘It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy”
Written by Vandana and Tony Mendonca
Ode to Gratitude
Every Star in the night sky
Holds a gift for me
I reach out with open arms
As I sail on the winds of thanks
When the night turns to day
And the stars disappear
The gifts remain, hidden
But my Grace reminds me..
I sail on the winds of thanks
And I whisper to myself
“I love you for who you are”
“Thank you – I am grateful”
Tony & Vandana Mendonca