Gratitude – A Powerful Drug and a Happy Pill!
“You can be happy RIGHT NOW, by appreciating what you already have. Give it a shot. You have nothing to lose by trying.”
When people think of Thanksgiving, they think of turkey dinners with butter and gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, football, and Macy Day parades. While all this may be a part of the celebrations, the original significance of Thanksgiving has its roots in the Puritan religion of giving thanks for a special blessing. And while Thanksgiving Day comes once a year, something as powerful as gratitude should ideally be practised every single day to live a happy and fulfilled life. Especially in times like today when there are worries and uncertainty all around, tools like gratitude, visualisations, and prayers become necessary for us to maintain our calm and keep us grounded.
All too often, our minds dwell on problems not resolved, opportunities missed out on, relationships lost, promises not kept, poor health, faded dreams, and fears of an uncertain future, regrets, and longings. While life does bring its share of challenges and disappointments, it also brings us great joys: problems solved, opportunities seized, relationships built; great health; promises kept; dreams fulfilled, and hopes that reassure our fears, which are a blessing upon blessing. Unfortunately, human minds have been designed in such a way that our focus often goes towards what we do not have, or on what is not going well and seldom on what is going well, or what we have, and that is how worry and fear creeps in. It could be our health, home as a shelter, jobs, children or relationships, surroundings, access to clean food, or nature; there is so much in everyone’s life to offer a little bit of gratitude every single day.
Finding gratitude in our day to day life:
Every religion talks about offering thanks and gratitude for the food that you eat. Some religions bless the water before they even drink it. Several studies are showing that gratitude can change your energy in your heart and mind, and that in turn, influences the way we feel and how our cells function in the body. The age-old practice of offering a small gratitude prayer before eating a meal was powerful because that helps change the energy of that meal, and this has got nothing to do with any religion. It is something every one of us can do. We can change the energy of that meal because if we eat with negativity that is precisely how it is going to break down in the human body, likewise, with the water that we drink. You can bless the water before you drink it, or you can offer gratitude for having access to clean and safe water. Gratitude is powerful because it is something every human being on this planet can practice, no matter what their economic status is. Gratitude and thankfulness turn little into enough and brings a feeling of contentment and satisfaction, which are, in a way, other forms of happiness and joy.
In my line of work, I see a big difference in grateful patients. One may think what they should be thankful for if they are going through cancer or they are sick and suffering. However, suppose one is living mindfully and has an attitude of abundance than that of lack, in that case, there is always something that they can be grateful for, e.g., family support, the fact that they can afford hospital fees or afford medications and so on. They find something to be grateful for, and that changes and shifts the entire energy in the body. It makes the patient feel better and takes away a certain amount of pain. It may be difficult to change the focus on things that are going well when there is sickness and suffering. Still, it is encouraged that they try to find that little amount of gratitude because with it, comes a lot of hope, and hope is a magic word that gives us that warrant to keep on moving on in our life. Imagine waking up without hope and meaning in life. You are literally dead, but alive in a body that is dead.
Having said that, there are times when no matter what the reason may be, you are not able to practice any form of gratitude. You just have this empty feeling inside of you. The key here is never to stop trying. You have to look for that one little thing that makes you feel thankful. It could be the laughter of your child, the touch of a loved one or something that someone said, and it made you feel good. Hold on to that, and be thankful, for it changes the energy and puts you in the space of being more and more grateful.
There is always something, even a little bit that you can find in your life to be grateful for. Gratitude is a lifeline that can help bring you up to the surface again, when you are going through the most challenging days, the saddest days and the darkest days of your life.
Practical ways to practice gratitude:
Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. And, although it may feel contrived at first, this mental state grows stronger with daily use and practice. Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude regularly.
- Offering gratitude can be something as simple as saying “Thanks” to someone. “Thank you” is a magical and powerful word. When said genuinely, it has the power to change the energy around us.
- Write a thank you letter or a gratitude note or an email to someone. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your joy and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month.
- No time to write? Thank someone mentally. It may help to think about someone who has done something nice for you and mentally thank that individual.
- End your day on a thankful note, by writing three things you were grateful for in the day. This is a powerful practice before sleep, as it helps shift our mind from a state of stress and worry to a state of calm and peace. If three sounds too much, count at least one blessing. No matter how bad your day or situation, or health or relationship is, look for something that you can be grateful for. It shifts the equation of your emotions and health even though you may still have that problem.
- Maintain a gratitude journal and pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings, reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number, such as, three to five things that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
- Call a friend or family member and express gratitude.
- Say a gratitude prayer before sitting down to eat a meal. Do it as a family ritual to involve your family members too.
- Religious people can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Power of advance gratitude:
Advance gratitude too is powerful. In this, one moves from the present quantum field to the future quantum field and gives thanks in advance. For example, one could give thanks for a PET scan report which may come in after three months. Or, thank the business for generating X amount of profit by the year end. Or, it could even be that you are headed for your first chemotherapy session, but you are also practising advance gratitude for your successful ninth chemotherapy session. This way, you are already grateful for what you have as well as grateful for what the future has in store. If we are optimistic about our present, we are also going to attract a much more positive future for us. Again, what do you lose by doing this? Nothing! The trash that we watch on television is already shaping our mind patterns, so we might as well use the power of the mind to think of something better.
Remember, everything is energy, your words, water, food, air, touch, feelings, nature, humans, and animals and so on. We can make it the right or wrong energy. We can bless and be grateful for every bit of energy around us or, we can be angry and ungrateful for all the energy around us. If you eat with disgust, fear, or anger, then that is the energy you will also create. If you drink water with reluctance and contempt, that is the kind of energy you will create. Never forget the fundamentals of living. Be grateful, bless your energies that your body, heart and mind needs. Living consciously and gratefully with abundance is the old, new, and future cool.
Also watch: The Health Benefits of Gratitude.
My name is Luke Coutinho. I am neither a God nor a Guru. I am not a healer or a doctor or a cult leader. I am Luke Coutinho and I practice in the field of Integrative Lifestyle Medicine and Life Coaching. When one hears the word “medicine”, one immediately thinks of the pharmaceutical world, allopathy, chemotherapy, radiation, antibiotics and other drugs used by conventional doctors and medicine. I am not a practitioner of Alternative Medicine either.