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.
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?
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)
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.