The one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy, says Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar. And happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude. An inspiring lesson in slowing down, looking where you’re going, and above all, being grateful.
The Stoics knew that wanting less correlates to increased gratitude, just as wanting more obliterates it. Psychologists call this hedonic adaptation. The Stoics sought to reduce this destructive habit of wanting more. In it they saw the key to a happy life and relationships.
“Pass through this brief patch of time in harmony with nature, and come to your final resting place gracefully, just as a ripened olive might drop, praising the earth that nourished it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth.”
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 4.48.2
“Remember to conduct yourself in life as if at a banquet. As something being passed around comes to you, reach out your hand and take a moderate helping. Does it pass you by? Don’t stop it. It hasn’t yet come? Don’t burn in desire for it, but wait until it arrives in front of you. Act this way with children, a spouse, toward position, with wealth—one day it will make you worthy of a banquet with the gods.”
— Epictetus, Enchiridion, 15
Seneca stressed that time is a fleeting and slippery possession. Every moment of every day we die. This is completely outside of our control. It makes sense to value our time and use it well. One wise use of your time could be to realise that gratitude can be about specific moments too. Those small parts of your day where you had a pleasant experience as you move through the day. A complement you received, a commute to work where you heard a forgotten, favourite song on the radio, a helpful employee in a shop, or a person who was courteous.
At a macro level, the fact that you’re alive is a miracle. Do something to show your gratitude for this, anything. Be nice to someone, make something, spend time with the people you love, whatever. As we get stuck in our daily routines we often taken life for granted. We find things which don’t match our expectations, and complain about them. But life isn’t perfect all the time. Appreciate this and move on. Look around you, and see what you’ve generously been given. Appreciate it
Of course, you can still feel worried or upset about a situation you don’t like, but at least it will be put into context and perspective.
- When you feel anger, instead take a moment to reflect on what aspects of that person or relationship you’re thankful for
- When you dont meet a goal, think about the progress you’ve made and the fact you’ve tried your best
- When you feel ill or unwell, consider that this is only temporary
- When someone you love dies, reflect on the times you’ve had together and why the enjoyment you both felt from the time that you had with them
- When you are criticized be thankful that they have paid enough attention to you to even say something
A regular commitment to being grateful, can turn into a habit. Once this happens then day to day difficulties can be put into their proper context. Your outlook on life slowly starts to transform. Its a small habit that sometimes you can forget to do it. But its worth the effort. Take a moment now to think about some of the things you’re grateful for. They may include:
- Being alive
- Being married
- Having children
- Your job
- Your capacity for doing good
- Your home
- Your health
- Your friends
- The pleasant memory of loved ones who are no longer alive
STOP wanting; LOOK at what’s really happening; GO and do something for someone else for a change. Let’s grow in that kind of grace.