WHY SHOWING GRATITUDE LEADS TO JOY & HAPPINESS
Last year I wrote a blog post about Thanksgiving in a café down the street from where I was being hosted by some friends of friends in Lyon, France. Despite the indifferent attitudes of my French friends towards this obscure Canadian holiday, I made sure to show lots of gratitude anyways; I cooked a big vegetarian meal that we shared over a couple bottles of wine and finished with whiskey on the rocks. Gratitude in action!
This year I’m back in Canada but I’m again away from my family, so Nico and I are hosting a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner with some friends here in Montreal. I always miss my dad’s apricot and kahlua glazed BBQ turkey and my nana’s uplifting grace when I’m away, but I make sure to give enormous thanks to the times that I have had when we were all together, and I’m so grateful to be here with new friends sharing in this beautiful holiday.
Showing gratitude is a really important part of being able to find happiness.
Joy, happiness, contentedness, self-actualization, all radiate outwards from a core of gratitude.
It’s not easy sometimes to be grateful; often we’re so deep into the negative mind loops, or we’re experiencing physical pain, or emotional suffering, that we simply cannot comprehend being able to show gratitude. What’s there to be grateful for in these moments of suffering?
I have found surprising solace in the fact that, “studies show that we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so.”
This implies that when we, in a way ‘force’ ourselves to express gratitude, we start to feel happier. You don’t have to already be happy to show gratitude; it actually works the opposite way. Gratitude begets joy.
The easiest and quickest way to put gratitude in action is to repeat mantras.
[ Side note, the Québecois translation of Thanksgiving is “Action de Grâce,” literally, actions of grace, which is a great way to think about your daily gratitude practice. ]
Start by creating a list of things you’re grateful for.
Here’s my list at the moment…
- I live in a beautiful apartment that is heated and has a fast internet connection.
- I’m able to buy groceries every week to feed myself.
- I have an amazing bff/roommate/fellow kitten princess who has fully supported me through thick and thin, all across the world, since we were twelve.
- My family back home cares about me infinitely.
- I have a lovely foster cat, Bobbi, who even though is not a cuddle monster, shows love in different ways.
- I am healthy enough to be able to exercise regularly and walk to the places I need to go.
- I’m gainfully employed and get to make a living doing what I love, which is writing.
Stick with things that are in the positive, i.e. things you do have as opposed to things you don’t or aren’t. For example, stay away from, “I don’t have a terminal illness,” or, “I’m not homeless.”
And then turn each of these sentences into a positive affirmation starting with “I’m so grateful..”
Ex: “I’m SO GRATEFUL to have food in the fridge!”
If you’re really struggling to find even one thing that’s going right in your life at the moment, try one of these…
“I am SO GRATEFUL for being alive!”
“I am SO GRATEFUL to have a roof over my head!”
“I am SO GRATEFUL that there are people in the world who work tirelessly to make the world around me a better place!”
These are very general statements that, despite perhaps not feeling true at the moment if you’re really in it and feeling down, are points from which you can open up your subconscious to joy.
We take for granted our moments of natural happiness, just as we take for granted the many amenities and luxuries we have access to.
Chances are you have a smartphone and access to high speed internet, and you probably don’t think about the fact that only 40% of the world has access to the internet, and that 30% of the world doesn’t have access to electricity, and that 6-8 million people will die this year because they don’t have access to clean water.
Take a moment to jot down on paper or spend some time thinking about all the things you have to be grateful for, and feel how your mood instantly lightens, the tenseness in your neck and shoulders starts to soften, your breathing slows down. Everything you need to open yourself to joy begins to manifest. Joy manifests.
So for this Canadian Thanksgiving Monday and every day from now into the next and the next and the next lives we live, give thanks!