An Attitude of Gratitude
A blind boy sat at the entrance of a building with a sign beside him that read,
"I am blind, please help me."
Infront of him, he placed a black hat where he collected change from passers-by. He sat there from morning to night every day and collected the little that he could. On this particular day, someone approached him and stood there for a few seconds. The blind boy held out his hat and said, "could you please spare some change?" .
He heard a coin drop into the hat, so he thanked them. But something strange happened; the person didn’t walk away immediately. The boy heard them pick up his sign and scribble something on it, and then place it back beside him. The boy was so confused that it skipped his mind to ask what that was about. Towards evening, just as he was about to pack up, someone approached him again. He immediately recognized the person’s smell, and he asked, “excuse me, what did you write on my sign earlier? I made a lot of money today.”
I kind voice laughed and said, I simply reframed what people walking by would see. You were still the same, but I wrote something to help them be thankful for what they have.
The blind boy was still confused, but the kind voice explained what he had written
‘today is a beautiful day, but I cannot see it.’
The two signs were both different perspectives, but true none the less. The first merely stated the fact, that the boy was blind; nothing else. The second one gave perspective and made passersby realize the things that they had to be grateful for. In our busy lives, surrounded by people presenting ‘images’ or ‘narratives of happiness’ which are often simply veneers, it is easy to forget the things that we take for granted in our lives, the progress we have made.
Though complicated in so many ways, the human mind is also more limited than we’d like to believe. It deletes, distorts and generalises to make sense of the world, a representation of ‘reality’, which is a deep subject in itself..
‘Change your perspective, change your reality’
It is natural to compare with people in our environment, which tends to mean we don’t appreciate our progress or growth as it is simply relative to the same group of people. Like standing on parallel escalators watching everyone around you. Keeping an eye on the ground as you rise, always gives you a better sense of your progress. In the same way, finding ways to remember your journey as opposed to measuring your current position, is a much healthier way to ‘choose’ to see the world. Simply put, if you change your perspective, you can change your narrative, your reality.
Some thoughts that might help gain this view:
What do you have that you couldn’t live without?
Who are the people in your life who will be with you, no matter what?
When was the last time you told them how much you appreciate them?
No matter how bad things may get, there is always something to be thankful for; it is all a matter of cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude. Even if it’s that you are able to breathe the air of a new day. Each day comes with it a fresh chance to draw a line and move forward.
Showing gratitude can help to increase your general wellbeing and will lead to more all-around satisfaction.
The Law of Attraction
Having an attitude of gratitude means that you are thankful for what you have, no matter the cards that you are dealt. The law of attraction will work in your favor. When you are constantly thankful, the universe will push positive things your way and if that’s too wild for you, at least accept that you are more likely to see opportunities than if you have a negative outlook. The top athletes, when faced with setbacks, are thankful and believe that the universe is always working in their best interests, even at such times.
Not surprisingly, they tend to recover quicker and come out stronger.
Giving is Receiving
The importance of gratitude stretches far beyond what you can gain from it; it’s even more powerful when you use it to show gratitude to others. If you want to test it for yourself, here’s something that I would suggest. Go through your phone book and pick one person each day and send them a message of why you are grateful for them, or something positive about them that you appreciate.
It has to be something real and authentic, something as simple as you love their smile or you remember something amazing you learned about them, anything. It might be difficult to start off with, but as you get into this habit, you’ll notice how simply writing it makes you feel better. Imagine receiving such a message out of the blue yourself, how would that make you feel? How would you feel about the person who’d sent it to you? Try it, I promise it will be transformative.
When you show someone gratitude, it helps them to see something positive about themselves, and not only do they appreciate it; it brings them closer to you.
All the great spiritual traditions teach that it is not happiness that makes us grateful; it is gratefulness that makes us happy. So, it works both ways, a virtuous circle that brings benefits to giver as well as receiver.
How does showing gratitude affect the brain?
The parts of the brain that are activated when you show gratitude are the ventral and dorsal medial pre-frontal cortex. Neurochemicals such as oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine are released when you think positive thoughts, commonly known as feel-good chemicals. Showing gratitude brings about positive emotions, as these chemicals are released in the brain.
Change your language to change your reality
The brain changes as you experience things. If you’re a glass half empty person with your language or thoughts, this ‘frames’ the world for your brain. It becomes the lens or perspective that you then, experience emotionally. Always start from asking ‘how full your glass is’, it frames your thinking in a positive way, even with the same set of circumstances.
The good news is that you can re-program your brain to be more positive. The little acts of gratitude, if done regularly over 2-3 months, changes your outlook and your brain becomes used to the positive emotions associated with the world in general. With time, you start to naturally think positive thoughts, and maintain that through challenging times. The reality is the same, but the experience is different!
Life is a Precious Gift - Live Every Moment
As a child, I remember hearing how special it was to have been born into the human family. It took around fourteen billion years for the Universe to be ready for us to take the stage. How amazing is that? Our Earth provides us everything we could possibly need, but our chase for bigger, better, more, is untenable. More than that, none of us know how long we have left, so live every moment. Every moment of our lives is a gift; every moment is precious. When we understand the importance of the moments that you have, being grateful become easier, ask anyone who has survived a serious illness or accident; suddenly what’s important comes into sharp focus.
My last thought for you is to find a way of doing something ‘selflessly’ for others where you have no material or personal gain. There is nothing quite as rewarding as helping someone in whatever way you can, but without any expectation.
My guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s moto ‘In the Joy of Others Lies Our Own’, is a powerful way to find the Joy….