Many of us are no strangers to the benefits that come with practicing gratitude. It helps us to see the good in our lives instead of focusing on the bad but of course, a million dollars isn’t going to fall into your lap as soon as you shout, “Thank you for this lovely day!” Sorrrry – but no. That would be nice wouldn’t it? Alas, I am no Abraham Hicks, making promises of piles of money through the mere practice of positivity ( I wanted to use alliteration-leave me alone.)
What I do know is that gratitude can help you train yourself to see opportunities that weren’t there before instead of all the ways in which you can fail. I think it may even act as a medicine for the negativity bias in the brain.
We all have a negativity bias. From the little I understand and to the best of my knowledge, this bias stems from when our ancestors had to survive in a much more brutal environment. Their brains had to adapt to thinking up the worst scenario that could happen in order to avoid getting killed.
Fortunately, for the most part ,and for many of us, we don’t have to worry about being eaten by a lion around every corner -or bush I guess, so this, as I understand it, is where anxiety comes from; An overuse of a monkey mind in a modern world.
Gratitude, in my experience, seems to train our brains to look for opportunities rather than negative outcomes. If you are consistently in a negative bias mindset, you may miss opportunities that are staring you right in the face, opportunities that could lead you to paths full of joy and abundance.
That being said, beyond recognising these portals towards abundance, gratitude can assist you in feeling like you’re abundant already. You stop comparing yourself to others and start developing a mindset that wonders at the privilege, abundance and grace of your life no matter what the surroundings. You may not have a million dollars, but you may certainly feel like a million dollars (Although could someone maybe give me a million dollars as well? Pretty please? I’ll be really grateful.).
This takes away that existential dread of consistently working long hours towards moments of achievement thats’ ecstasy tends to waver away, usually in a few minutes at the most, wherein you start rolling that ball up the hill again, wishing for that millisecond of joy at the top to last a lifetime. Thanks for the piece of paper. A degree in Philosophy. YAAAAAAY…Shit I can’t find a job. (Hint: That’s not always true if you’re smart enough.)
With gratitude, you can enjoy the climb. You can think, ‘Wow, look at all the beautiful flowers on this hill’, appreciate the friends who helped you when you fell down and took rests with you under the waterfalls along the way as the cool air massaged your face on a beautiful spring day.
Now, I know this may rub some people the wrong way. I will not deny that in some contexts, suffering is a given, and sometimes you may still suffer in areas of privilege. It is a part of life.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that gratitude takes the edge off, makes things a little easier to handle in tough situations and, in some cases, beautifies your life with nothing but what was already there – except that you just had your eyes shut. In a sense, gratitude is a way towards awakening to the grace and beauty of our own existence and it denotes a certain level of responsibility for the space you find yourself in.
I, myself, used to get annoyed with the concept of gratitude. A practice always preached by my mother until this day and what I used to think of as naive and escapist way of navigating through the world.
I realise now, as I begrudgingly do more and more these days, that my beautiful mom is much more wise then she lets on. Gratitude, as I have said, is not closing your eyes to the suffering and negatives in the world but choosing to look at the beauty of is as well.
I can just hear my mom saying, ‘I told you so,’ and then going on to recite her favourite poem that is stuck in my head like ‘Let it go’ by Frozen but, nonetheless, represents the seemingly simple, yet deeply complex wisdom of appreciating your life as it is, right here right now.
(Joyce is lying. My mom wrote it. She told me when I was little.)