What Is Gratitude?
What is gratitude? The Oxford dictionary defines the word gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.
My understanding of the meaning of gratitude is simply being grateful for what you have. Acknowledging the good things in your life, and appreciating them as often as possible. Trying your best not to take anything for granted.
In the past when I’ve thought about what it means to have gratitude, this line has come into my head: “there’s always someone worse off than you”. It would sometimes get my back up. Yes, I understood the statement and I knew it was true, there’s other people in the world that have much worse problems than me, like wondering how they’re going to get their next meal or where they’re going to rest their head for the night. I couldn’t ever imagine what a life like that might be like and I am very grateful I am not in that kind of situation.
But I also couldn’t help thinking that this statement made me feel like then my own problems weren’t valid, like I should stop complaining and get on with life as it could be worse. To some extent, yes, this was true, I should be grateful for what I did have rather than always thinking about what I didn’t have, but this would sometimes make me feel worse, because I felt it labelled me as the sort of person who would “make a fuss over nothing” and that I should just get on with life as it is.
In reality, my feelings were valid - everyone has the right to an opinion and to feel the way they do no matter what’s going on in other people’s lives. Everything is relative in each individual person’s life, so for example, just because I had a roof over my head and a job with a steady income, shouldn’t mean that my feelings of unhappiness and boredom towards my job weren’t valid. If I’d just always shut these feelings down and forgotten about them the way that I was made to feel like I should, then I wouldn’t be where I am today.
It’s sometimes these feelings that something isn’t quite right in your life that push you and motivate you to move forward in life and make a change for the better, so you should never feel like you’re not entitled to feel this way.
However, I will say that since more recently I have been practising mindfulness and learning more and more about the power your mind can have over you, a lot of the time I have been able to see things in a slightly different light. When I now think about gratitude and what this means to me, I can look around and instantly feel this warmth inside me where I just have this deeper understanding that everything in life is a blessing in some form. I’ve been able to see in a different light how not only do I have so many positive things to be grateful for, like my current job now and my amazing support network of family and friends, but I’ve also become grateful for the darker days too.
We are all human and all have days where we don’t feel as motivated, or we feel fed up with certain areas of our lives but I have come to learn that these things that sometimes make us unhappy are there to be learnt from. Rather than battling with myself, feeling guilty to be feeling a bit down over “such a trivial thing”, I’ve learnt to notice any feeling like this and try to explore why I’m feeling this way.
I now try to use these moments as lessons to drive me further forward, and getting to know myself to the best of my ability so I can understand why and if there’s anything that can be done to help. I’ve found it really helpful to explore these feelings rather than push them out because I’m made to feel ungrateful as this just doesn’t help anyone! It’s been really great to get to know myself more and to think about why I have the feelings in the first place. I’ve found that the more I sit with these feelings and explore them rather than dismissing them, the less I get them and the easier I find it to feel grateful actually.
I have come to realise recently the power and importance of gratitude and what this can actually do for me. Looking within myself and focusing on my own life rather than comparing to others has helped massively. I now spend more time looking at how far I have come in my own life, and have feelings of gratitude for this in particular because of how much I have changed and how much happier I am. The power of doing this on a daily basis is incredible and even though some days are harder than others when it comes to finding the positives, I know that when I think about the things I’m not happy with I can use these as lessons, rather than shutting down and feeling guilty for complaining about my life when there’s people worse off than me.
Life is a rollercoaster, and everyone is different, living different lives and having different thoughts and emotions. This should be embraced as much as possible, because the more you can accept your feelings rather than distancing yourself from them, the more you can learn and grow, which in turn will better your own life. Remember, you never know what’s going on in other people’s minds, so be kind.