Finding the Joy of Gratitude

In our darkest moments, deepest depressions, and in the midst of challenging emotions, gratitude can be our life preserver. And as I write this I am pondering the possible ending of a relationship and the emotional whirlwind that entails. I look to gratitude to help ease the emotional burden. But we have to know how to be grateful. One of my favorite quotes is from Meister Johannes Eckhart. He was a Dominican Friar from the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Eckhart preached often, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” Eckhart knew the value of gratitude and how it could bring those who professed it and those that believed in its power closer to the divine.

Having battled depression and anger I can attest to the power of being grateful. It is a difficult emotion to grab onto, but once you have it you should use it. In the last year I read a book I found in the Barnes and Noble bargain section titled, A Simple Act of Gratitude, by John Kralik. It was an easy read and I have passed it on to several people who I felt would appreciate and benefit from reading it. It is not based on any religious dogma. It is the simple story of a lawyer that set out to build his own practice. When the firm began to fail and was on the brink of closing Kralik took a moment to write a thank you note to his son. This sparked further thank you notes to family, friends, and clients. He began a year long project to write 365 thank you notes. He found that with each thank you note his true feelings of gratitude soared. He also discovered that sending a thank you note to a client that was not paying their legal fees or seriously late with payment chipped away at his anger. It had the added bonus of reminding that client to pay their fees.

Within months Kralik’s practice was climbing out of the red and back into the black. He attributes this to taking the time to make his clients, family, and loved ones know how important they were to him. He did not quite reach his goal of 365 thank you notes, but he continues to write them and profess their importance.

I enjoyed this book so much I started writing thank you notes myself. I wrote several to my parents, co-workers, and even my neighbor. I would mail them, or place them in their mailbox at work. Each thank you note led to a phone call or a visit from those I left the note for. They were touched by my gratitude. But, more importantly, I was touched by my own gratitude. Not, in an egocentric way, but just how much better I felt writing the note and taking them time to feel grateful. I found that I became less angry and my depression lessened as well. Just that simple mindful act of writing and feeling gratitude helped alter my moods.

In today’s busy society we often rush through our days. We don’t stop to think about how others have helped us through that day. The friend that helped us pick up the papers we dropped in the hallway. The family member that calls or texts out of the blue just to say, “I love you.” These acts of love and kindness begin to fan the flames of gratitude. We need those flames to build. With each mindful moment of gratitude we experience the lighter and happier we become. Even if you are angry at someone, take a moment to thank them. Even if you have to fake the emotion. Because the more you say thank you the more you will actually begin to feel that gratitude.

Make a list. Who are you thankful for? What in your life are you grateful to have? No matter how small or insignificant you feel the object is, no matter how little that person is in your life, write it down. Keep the list with you; in your wallet or your purse. Refer to it often, update it often. Make this a living breathing list that is alive with your gratitude. Once you start feeling the gratitude it becomes easier and easier with every person and every thing you are grateful for. When you look at the list take note of how you feel. Are you happier? Is there a smile on your lips? Can you feel the gratitude? Try this exercise for two weeks. Give it your full effort and mindful attention and see if your mood doesn’t improve. What can it hurt? Find the joy of gratitude.

Namasté
Matthew

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