The Secret Power of Gratitude and How to Get It

gratitudeTwo nights ago it happened.

My wife and I had just finished dinner and I was watching TV when I was consumed with this overall feeling of dread.

Doom and gloom from out of nowhere.

I could not put my finger on the reason why, but I was overcome with this feeling of hopelessness and that something in the universe was not right. There was a disturbance in the force or as Obi-Wan put it “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

OK, that’s a little dramatic, but sometimes it can certainly feel that way when you’re normally brimming with gratitude.

So I laid back on the couch and just felt it. I considered grabbing a pen and paper and writing a gratitude list, knowing the action would help and then I could share how I “walk the walk.” But I didn’t, instead I used the power of now and then went through a mental list of all that I was grateful for such as my wife, granddaughter, parents, job, legs, food, home, etc. and that all my basic needs were met.

I know I talk about gratitude a lot, but it is important. Get used to it.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
-Melody Beattie

Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Nonconformity, listed three parts of gratitude in his Zen Habits guest post, “Three Truths to Help You Create a Life of Gratitude

A life of gratitude is composed of three parts that combine to make a whole.

1. A sense of purpose in our lives

2. An appreciation for the lives of those around us

3. A willingness to take action to show the gratitude we feel

Finding A Sense of Purpose

Finding a sense of purpose in one’s life is no small task. For most of my life, I thought “the purpose” was to find happiness. This thinking simply brought on years of self-will and wrestling with most forces in life. Through the gift of desperation, I realized a life run on self-will alone puts me in conflict with the universe and everyone in it. Think about it, if we’re all trying to run our lives on self-will, getting the most out of life for ourselves, who’s looking out for each other?

It’s like when my wife and I go to Home Depot on the weekends. It’s really quite funny. We get all dressed up and looking nice just in case someone sees us. I mean really! Isn’t everyone else just going around doing the same thing—wondering how everyone sees them? (OK, maybe not…) The good thing is we’re able to laugh at ourselves about it.

Finding a sense of purpose can be as easy as doing what makes you happy. I found that living a life based on spiritual principles and helping others as much as I can makes me happy. That life is not a search for happiness but a by-product of right living. I used to think I had to change the world, you know, really make a difference! Today I look for my life purpose each and every day. My morning prayer is, “God, show me what you will have me do today and give me the strength and willingness to carry it out.” When I approach each day with this attitude, anything is possible!

Appreciate Those Around You

Appreciation is an action, look at those around you in everyday life and see what you can do to make their lives better. Here’s something to try. The next time you feel frustrated, angry, or upset because you feel someone just doesn’t understand, try being understanding rather than understood.

Bringing joy to those around you is a great way to show your appreciation for them. One of my favorite parts of the movie The Bucket List is when Carter poses the two questions which are asked of Egyptians entering heaven: “Have you found joy in your life?” and “Has your life brought joy to others?” Bring joy to others and you’ll find joy yourself.

Gratitude is an Action

I love it, just love it—anything to do with action! I use to think about getting flowers or a gift for someone, but never really took any action. I was too busy achieving happiness. People’s happiness comes from my actions, not my intentions. I refer to those days as my ten dollar days. I would never put more than ten dollars worth of gas in my car at a time. I had the money, just no patience—always in a hurry to someplace to do something for myself. It is simple—doing things for others shows them you appreciate them.

There are so many ways you can take action to show gratitude, such as how you treat yourself and your possessions. Are you grateful for your life and your body? Trying exercising. Are you grateful for your car? Try washing it. Are you grateful for your clothes? …OK, I didn’t really think “try washing them” would be that impactful so how about this… If you’re grateful for having more than enough clothes, give some of them away to a local shelter.

I try to hold fast to the truth that a full and thankful heart cannot entertain great conceits. When brimming with gratitude, one’s heartbeat must surely result in outgoing love, the finest emotion that we can ever know.”
-Bill Wilson

So as I lay there on the couch and think of all that I am grateful for, the feeling of dread lifts just a little. I got on my knees and said a simple prayer, “God, thank you for your Grace and Confidence” and went up stairs to share my feelings with my wife. (I share everything, it’s good practice for when I’m making unreasonable demands of myself) She kisses me and tells me she loves me—it lifts a little more.

From experience I know that emotions are just emotions, that they change, and that This Too Shall Pass. The next morning I rise and am grateful for another day as a flower is for the sun.

Asking for Help

When writing about a topic I think up a ton of other things to write about.

One that immediately comes to mind is the powerful realization that emotions do not last forever. I suppose it may feel that way for some.

I remember when I was suffering from depression, and the constant feeling of doom I carried in my soul. I had no purpose for my life, no gratitude, and felt those feelings would last forever.

I can relate to those who may feel such emotions for extended periods of time and how suicide can seem attractive.

OK, I realize that is a bold statement, but there was a time in my life when suicide was a very real option. That is when I asked for help and was desperate enough to do whatever it took to get better.

If you feel hopelessness and despair, please ask someone for help. It’s out there and there are people who truly do understand what you’re going through. I still get those feelings from time to time, so I have accumulated a set of tools that I pull out and use—like gratitude! And I tell myself, this too shall pass. If in the US, call 1-800-SUICIDE. For international help, please visit http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

photo credit: furbychan

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Comments

  1. Nadia - Happy Lotus says

    Hi Jared,

    Isn’t great that the more intuned we are with our inner voice, the more we can sense those disturbances in the Force? At least, that is my feeling.

    Happiness, I came to learn, is a state of being and perception. Gratitude does work hand in hand with that. When my mother was fighting terminal cancer, I came to see that the mere act of being able to go to the bathroom by yourself is a huge blessing that so many people take for granted. The mere fact we can get up in the morning and walk is a huge gift.

    Gratitude, like happiness, is a way of life and outlook. We are all surrounded with numerous blessings if we just look. May more people have that awareness, I think your post will be of great help to many.

    Have a beautiful day! :)

  2. Lisis says

    This post was great in so many ways! First, the Obi Wan moment… I’ve so had that moment! But also, your emphasis on ACTION and the comparison to your “ten dollar days” (love that, btw!). I generally feel extremely blessed and grateful, full of good intentions, but don’t usually act on them to express or convey my gratitude.

    I really need to make a point of that. Like I said, for the most part I feel blessed all the time but, if I had official gratitude moments in my days, I can only imagine how much better life would be (for me and those around me).

    THANKS!!

  3. Miche | Serenity Hacker says

    The practice of gratitude as action really gives me something to think about! I always think about it as a state, rather than an action, but now you’ve got me pondering how the action may actually lead to the state.

    I practice gratitude in my thoughts often but you’ve got me wondering if I actually practice it outwardly enough! Good stuff!

    Thanks for sharing your insights Jared!
    -Miche

  4. Megan "JoyGirl!" Bord says

    That’s incredible, and makes me so glad I bookmarked your awesome site.
    So much of what you wrote stood out to me, but here are the things that left the strongest impressions:
    - “God, show me what you will have me do today and give me the strength and willingness to carry it out.” (I love that affirmation and have added it to a list of great affirmations on my computer. Thank you!)
    - “try being understanding rather than understood” (Applying the energy we want to another — being proactive, rather than reactive; something I just wrote about!)
    - “There are so many ways you can take action to show gratitude, such as how you treat yourself and your possessions.” (LOVED the “wash your car” one… since it’s demonstrative of so many things in my life that I perhaps take for granted, but maybe need to cherish a bit more. I haven’t washed my car in more than a year because it’s silver and no one can tell. I do vacuum it and give it “pat-pat’s” to let it know I love it, but the washing thing sparked me thinking about other areas of my life I could show appreciation in. Thank you!)

    This post really got me thinking, and for that, I’m deeply grateful.

  5. Jared says

    @Lisis,
    I would say that these days I experience “million dollar days!” Thanks for stopping by and I’m enjoying following you along your journey!

    Oh, and you make a great point about gratitude moments and not only how they help us, but those around us!

    @Positively Present,
    It’s all about progress and thank God we always have something to work on. If we didn’t, well… I guess we would be done. What fun would that be?

    @Nadia,
    I agree totally on being in-tuned with our inner voice. I never knew what that was before, let alone how to listen to it. I had to take time to get to know myself before I was able to filter out the noise and listen.

    Another by-product of being in-tuned with oneself, IS the ability to realize and identify our blessings. We’re more able to view ourselves and what we have (blessings) in perspective with those around us. Those who are less fortunate.

    Thanks for sharing about your mother.

    @Miche,
    I agree totally that “the action may actually lead to the state.” I heard an amazing example of this recently but for the life of me can’t remember…. hmmm OK, let me throw this out… Say I have a sink full of dirty dishes and I’m constantly feeling a state of unease because I know I should get to cleaning them up. I take the action to clean the dishes and as a result I discover gratitude that I even have a sink! That’s sort of a weak example and not as prolific as the one I “can’t remember” but…

    @Megan,
    Thanks for stopping by! You know with that first prayer, “God, show me what you…” it works so well that, throughout each day I’m presented with opportunities to help someone else, then I really get a chance to see how much I meant what I prayed for!

    I love the “be understanding rather than understood” idea. It actually comes from the Prayer of St. Francis. Which to me is a model to really strive for.

  6. jaybird says

    Great post.i could use applying gratitude in my life. I understand the suicide thing and have been romancing the idea alot lately.no joke.your articles are a fresh breathe of air.thanks a bunch!!

    • jared says

      Hey Jaybird, I like to use the term “attitude of gratitude.” And remember that gratitude is an action, which means taking care of things we are grateful for. Which means ourselves. I certainly understand the concept of romancing suicide, but we must find love for self and thus gratitude. It can be hard sometimes. But it helps to work on that before and as opposed to simply seeking approval from others. Good luck to you and keep on searching.

  7. Carolyn says

    Thanks Jared. You can not selectively numb emotions. It’s eye opening to ride them out and sit in the awareness as they pass by. Glad to see you have the same take on gratitude, it’s a practice. It is a concerted effort to be intentionally thankful each day, all day. Doesn’t everyone dress up to go to the Home Depot? Bless you for saying that out loud! Good stuff Jared. Thank you for growing and sharing your journey.

  8. Walkinbird says

    I need to show my gratitude (the action, not just the intention), to you, Jared, as your posts have sparked valuable activity in me. Your posts so often resonate with what is going on in my life now.

    Today, I woke up wanting to help everyone in my house show more gratitude for what we do have, I just didn’t know thatat’s what I should be calling it. Your explanation may help me actually implement the chores that will keep the things around us looking inviting.

    So, again, thanks for targeting something that on the surface is simple, but has such depth.

    • jared says

      You’re welcome. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Gratitude is a very simple yet powerful thing. And thanks for showing your gratitude.

      Blessings,
      Jared

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