Updated: May 22
Gratitude was first pointed out to me the night before my wedding. A friend claimed that if I went about my wedding day being thankful for all the particular details then I'd enjoy them and remember them all the more. It worked as I can remember clearly a little bridesmaid picking the decorations of the cake and eating them one by one whilst the speeches were in full flow and another senior lady's extraordinary hat. I think this piece of advice was pointing towards what I now see as the first of three benefits of gratitude, namely that it enables us to enjoy things more fully. When we are thankful for something we are being mindful of that thing and we are also taking the time to savour that thing so that we don't just experience it fleetingly as a chore or irrelevant to the 'more important tasks of the day'. Rather being thankful for things helps us to enjoy life more fully.
Another friend helped illustrate what gratitude meant for her by talking about a piece of white paper with a black dot on it. So easily does our attention fix on the black dots on the canvas of our life so that the black dots present themselves as far bigger than they really are. Being thankful brings our gaze to the expansive white space of good things that are available to all of us much of the time. Focusing on the good things in our lives (a basic level of health, material provision, wealth, opportunity, some decent human relationships are good things) enables us to become more positive and therefore stronger. So this means that gratitude strengthens us so we overcome the difficult times being less aware of the challenge and more aware of the blessing.
The obvious moment of "giving thanks" is upon receiving a gift where we will thank a person, the giver. Not only is this English etiquette, but it actually creates a connection with that person who is being recognised and valued as the giver. So gratitude can create connection with others. When it comes to gifts from human givers this is easy to understand. But I also suggest that as we practise gratitude for all things, we might need to look a little further to recognise the Giver. As we are grateful for the sun, the earth, the sea and everything in and between them could our thanks create a connection with a Creator of all things? I suggest thanking the Divine or God for all things can build connection in this spiritual dimension which again enables us to live more fully. (All of this doesn't deny the black dots of suffering and how to handle them, but that's for another blog!)
Engage more fully in an attitude of gratitude and see where it takes you.