2 February 2013. Filed under category Life.
Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude is the salt of life. When experiencing something wonderful, sprinkle it with some gratitude and you’ll enjoy it even more. Unlike salt, however, most people have far too little gratitude in their lives, leaving it bland and tasteless.

We all have so much to be grateful for. Since you are reading this, I assume that you are from a developed country and all your basic needs like food, clean water and shelter are taken care of as well as your secondary needs such as an education, a sex life and a smart phone.

But having things to be grateful for and feeling grateful is the difference between having salt in your cupboard and adding it to your food.

All good things flow from people

All Good Things Flow From People

All good things flow from people.

Think about it. It started with you parents. They gave you life and somehow resisted the temptation to take it away during your obnoxious know-it-all teenage years. They raised you! That is a big thing. Be grateful.

Then we have siblings, friends, lovers and other people close to you. What would life be without them? Recognize all the amazing things they give you, both tangible and intangible, and be grateful.

Let’s not forget acquaintances and random strangers. Often, we have an easier time feeling gratitude towards these people when they do us a good deed because we don’t expect it.

Finally, we have the biggest overlooked group of people who do us so much good and we rarely give them a second though. These are the distant strangers who we’ll never meet and who don’t know our name, but who still make our lives rich and plentiful. These are people like artists, factory workers, scientists, street cleaners, nurses, scientists, entrepreneurs and let’s not forget the scientists! The list goes on and on.

Stop taking these people for granted, and give silent (or better yet, loud!) thanks to them for contributing to civilization. Without it, we’d be nothing.

Here is the big idea. You are part of civilization as well. But what part do you play? Who benefits from your life? Whose life do you brighten? Could you do more?

Final note about gratitude and people. As a nomad, you quickly become dependent on the kindness of strangers. After all, you are surrounded by them every time you move. Being a nomad has solidified my belief in humanity as being overall good. I will write more about this later, but didn’t want to miss this opportunity to say thank you to all those who have helped me along my journey!

Gratitude towards the inanimate

All good things flow from people? All things? Nothing left for the inanimate? Should I not be grateful towards the life-giving sun to which we owe our very existence?

Gratitude towards a stone?

Can you be grateful towards a stone?

In my opinion, no. The sun has no choice in the matter. It just is.

I can’t justify feelings of gratitude towards the inanimate any more than I can justify anger towards it.

If the sun burns me, it would be silly to angrily shake my fist at it and curse it. (I should blame myself.) If I get shot, plotting revenge against the bullet would be idiotic. (I should plot against the shooter) If I get sick, raging against the bacteria would be fruitless. (Feeling gratitude towards medical doctors who work hard to cure diseases, however, makes a lot of sense!)

Of course, feeling joy from a beautiful summer’s day or misery when you get sick is fine, but gratitude is something I reserve for sentient beings with a will who chooses to do a good thing.

I should add that I am agnostic, and thus have no God that I could use as the ultimate sentient and wilful deity to whom I could feel gratitude for having given me the sun, the quarks and the laws of nature. Instead, I feel gratitude towards the human scientists who have uncovered the knowledge and useful implementation of the sun, the quarks and the laws of nature. (etc)

Gratitude Journal

Start a gratitude journal

A great way to train your gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. The idea is simple. Keep a notepad by your bed. Every day, as you go to bed, write down at least one thing that happened that day for which you are grateful.

Knowing that you will have to write something positive in the journal at the end of the day makes you look for positive things throughout the day. This is the point of the whole exercise, to open your eyes! It doesn’t matter if you later read the gratitude journal. What matters is that you become mindful of good things as they happen.

My Gratitude Journal

These are some selected entries from my October gratitude journal. The whole thing would probably bore you, but seeing a few entries might inspire you to start your own journal.

01: … having my own space in Wainuiomata, for free!
05: … Craig, for designing, printing and sending me a modern nomad t-shirt!
06: … Mr and Mrs Higgs borrowing me their car!
11: … that I can deal with being on my own without going crazy. (?)
13: … Kris showing me around Wellington in his car!
15: … the free internet at the coffee shop! Lifesaver!
21: … the experience of flying from Wellington to Takaka! So cool!
27: … being at Autumn Farm!
31: … 2012. I read my journal from the year, and it is fucking clear that I live a blessed life!

Travel Updates

I’ve been in Sydney for one week, and boy do I have things to be grateful for! The most wonderful gift I’ve received in a long time is the opportunity to stay in my friend Ian’s beachside house! This place is so awesome that I’ve made a video of it. See it below.

I’ve had a great start to Sydney. I’ve met several lovely new friends, much faster than any other place I’ve visited. I’ve chilled out on the beach, eaten kangaroo, gone skinny-dipping in the ocean, watched Game of Thrones, worked and celebrated Australia’s national day, and this is just the beginning!

My cup is running over!


Are people the only thing we should feel gratitude towards?

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  1. Craig Brown says:

    Oh boy! Nearly my favorite topic Gustav! This is an idea for my own blog and you beat me to the punch. 😉 Here are a few of my ideas off the top of my head.


    We are a creature of habit, especially in what our minds choose to think about. If you practice finding and seeing beautiful things, then those are the things you will see. If you practice seeing ugly things, then those are the things you will see. There are certainly enough of both for all of us, though the practice of seeing the ugly seems easier for most people since life can be inherently difficult; unfortunately, it can be a downward spiral too. Your idea of a gratitude journal is a perfect way to practice and to make seeing the good a natural habit. The result is living in a constant state of gratitude and meaning.


    When you feel grateful, you start to be surrounded by people wanting to help you. I recently returned from a Central American jungle where I was eaten alive by the insects. I hit snowstorms trying to get back home, which took 48 hours. Every time someone did something nice to me I just took a moment to notice and feel the appreciation. Then the angels started to line up. Working in a service industry I know what happens to angry and ungrateful people – they are avoided like the plague.


    Thanks for mentioning the people who help us that we never meet. Often while I’m at work I look at the airplane all around me, a frozen form of human intelligence, and I give a moment silent thanks to those who gave me more than I could give in return. I fly in a chair over the ocean, well below zero and with insufficient oxygen to breathe, have dinner with friends in London or Paris, say, and get back to my hometown gym before my workout partners even knew I was gone.
    Back from the jungle where I had the opportunity to ponder the life of a Mayan slave, I felt soooo grateful for the hot clean shower and flushing toilet ten feet from my bed: whoever did that THANKS!


    Yes, I’m so grateful for my job. And I know that you are grateful that I am your airline patron (and friend) Gustav, but did you know how grateful I am that I can BE your airline patron? Five years ago I climbed a volcano in Chile accompanied by an exuberantly alive young guide who was responsible for one of the best days of my life. I told him about my job and he said one day he wished he could travel around the world when he finished medical school. I noted secretly in my mind that one day I would make that happen. Well, that day arrived! Can you imagine being empowered to give someone such a huge Thank You?! Whoop!


    As Shakespeare said (always so pithily): Box about; twill come back to thee anon.

    1. Craig Brown says:

      I’m sorry I can’t stay away.

      An alternative/adjunt to a written gratitude journal is a photography gratitude journal. When we take photos we are usually seeking to make an image of something impressive. There is something about looking through a view finder that finds a view. It’s a paradigm shift in perspective. Do it until you start to feel moments of regret for not having your camera with you. *Has everyone noticed Gustav’s new Daily Photo selection?*


      I have a blog where my intention is to express my feeling of wonder at what is often inanimate, as far as I can tell. But I think I get your point. You are saying that gratitude should should be reserved for wonder and appreciation at something that is made possible by an intentional being? If it does happen to be the case that a God is responsible for natural and inanimate things, then my “wonder” immediately flips into gratitude to Her. In any event, what I feel towards the amazing sun in whose steady light for 4.5 billion years life has evolved reasonably peaceably to the point of being able to make instructions for my self aware brain is pretty over the top amazing. So yeah, I’m in wondrous awe of a “rock.” Creator or no Creator, this feeling of metaphysical joy adds to my spirit just like gratitude to a person.

      1. Wonder I can feel about anything and everyone. Your own blog, which articulates wonder so well (It’s in the name, Craig’s Sense of Wonder) is about science to a great deal, and I share your wonder.

        But gratitude… I’ll reserve that to the sentient and self-aware. And without a God to thank for the sun, well, I don’t have a recipient of my gratitude.

  2. crys klier-hoffman says:

    sorry, gratitude, I’m still thinking OMFG at the view of Bronte Beach.Love the little aside, ” who cares about the kitchen.”
    Gratitude. Your posts get more philosophical all the time. Gratitude. Yes, I have a great deal of gratitude towards many people, some of whom I have never met in person but who have enriched my life beyond measure 😉
    And,of course, I am grateful for all the things you mention.
    But, I am also grateful for things which I would never have expected to feel anything about other than anger, fear, sorrow.
    I am grateful to be in the exact place in my life I am. It’s not what most people would call a ” good ” place but I am in it, I am surviving it, I am learning from it, I am growing from it, I am going to squeeze every ounce of positive out of it I can. The best part of it is I am in a position to give back because of this rather uncomfortable spot I am grateful for. I am grateful life has kicked me in the gut and the rear and knocked me about the head. I am not a ” if life hands you lemons make lemonade” person. I actually like lemons. Go figure.

    1. I like your attitude. You are right in that we grow from our experiences, good or bad. Often, especially the bad.

      I understand those that wish the bad away. I understand totally. But it won’t work, of course. It is fixed. The only thing we can change is our reaction to it. Will it tear us down? Then the bad even is given enormous power. Will it serve as a lesson, but not a master? Then it is given less power. This is something that we are somewhat in control of.

  3. Thanks for the blog article. You’ve said a bit and it will take me a while to drill down into my own process. Interesting.
    Very outside looking in? For myself I find that I must have self gratitude before looking outside. Does that make any sense, because for me to feel gratitude for someone else, I must first have a reference point on which to base this. Without a strong identity of self, is gratitude even possible?
    I recently wrote an article on my site titled “You don’t need to be a nurse to care”. I’ve explored similar themes as your’s but from a different perspective.
    Keep up the great work!!!!

  4. Allan says:

    I feel gratitude for being born where I was, i.e. Europe and the ‘first world’. Sorry if that sounds a bit off, what I mean is that I am glad I was born in the first world due to the opportunities it gives you, such as education, good job prospects, opportunity to travel, and access to health services, no matter who you are. I am grateful for being born in Europe as I think its the most varied and interesting continent on the earth.

    1. I feel this as well. In the grand lottery of life, I ended up in a spectacularly wonderful family and country. We can’t walk around and think about this all the time, but when we face some setback or hardship, remembering our improbably good fortune overall gives good context. Suddenly, the broken laptop doesn’t seem quite so bad anymore. (Especially since you followed the the paranoid’s guide to backups and didn’t lose any actual data…)

      1. Allan says:

        I feel bed I didn’t also include my family in the things I feel gratitude for, as I feel exactly the same as you.

  5. Phil Stevens says:

    As usual Gustav you have managed to convey a thought-provoking concept based on your viewpoint, this is what makes your articles so interesting.
    My take on this is that gratitude may be felt towards anything in life which we feel has been of benefit to us or from which we have derived goodness, in whatever shape or form that may take, it is a feeling of being thankful. Can it only be felt and directed towards other people? Gratitude felt towards other people is probably the most tangible regardless of whether it is felt and expressed on a close interpersonal level or more remotely to a distant stranger. It is nonetheless an exchange between human kind, that which we more readily identify with and accept.
    I believe gratitude can also extend towards other facets of life and at different levels. I can feel a sense of gratitude as a consequence of a random but timely synchronised set of events which have placed me in a fortuitous position and proved to serve me well. I can feel gratitude for being able to transform my past pain and suffering into something positive, rich and life-affirming, because these experiences in their own way have allowed me to become the person I am now.
    I am reminded here that a lack of gratitude can prevent people from seeing the beauty in their lives and limit their flow of experience, we should therefore always seek to extend our gratitude to include all that is deserving of it.

  6. Eric White says:

    Nice job dude. I’ve found that making it a point to dish out at least one honest compliment a day to someone, anyone – random or personal acquaintances, is a good way to maintain a grateful “spirit” and keep yourself open to how others impact your life!

    1. This is a great self-imposed assignment to help train ourself to be better people. We all know that we should give more compliments, we know how good it makes us feel when we receive one, so why not practice? I will do this! Thanks for the comment! (and welcome to the commenting section!)

  7. Jono says:

    I think we should go back to worshipping the Sun. It is a god you can count on.

    …except maybe for the human sacrifice part.

  8. Keith Langston says:

    Hi Gustav,
    I live on the Gold Coast, Qld and if you are coming this way you might like to email me as we may be able to host/show you around.



  9. Anne says:

    Know Im a little behind on reading these articles.. Seems my time to link with the type of articles you deal in has only just eventuated.

    Im kind of with Phil Stevens in the sense that I believe gratitude can be directed towards all levels & facets of life..

    I don’t as such believe in an all encompassing god like figure, but I do believe that there is an energy field that we all draw inspiration from. That all matter being energy vibrating at different frequencies tends to lead me to believe that gratitude even to an inanimate object will find a benefactor at some point in time 😉

    Im sure a person doing psychometry would much prefer to have handled that stone after someone has poured their heart & soul into it via gratitude than after someone with more benevolent thoughts 😀

    Catch you on the bright side, altho the dark side of the moon nearly always held my sway..

  10. Anne says:

    Seems even when I require a word that dictates hate filled I am subconsciously reluctant to engage with it.. benevolent thoughts being malevolent thoughts.. My bad :S Lmao..

Are people the only thing we should feel gratitude towards?

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