What is Gratitude And What it Really Means

What is the difference between someone who is full of joy, has a zest for life, and always seems to have a smile on their face, and someone who is grumpy, grouchy, and a total drain to be around? Is it the amount of money they have? Is it simply their personalities? Is it the circumstances they’re going through? 

Nope. While all those things certainly can play a role in the amount of joy a person experiences, they’re not the primary factor. 

The primary factor is gratitude. 

Gratitude has the power to change any situation. Actually, a better way of putting it is that gratitude has the power to change the way we experience any situation. Being grateful may not change your circumstances, but it does change you, and that makes all the difference. 

First and foremost, gratitude is a way of living. It is a state of being in which you open yourself up to receive good things. It is a posture of openness, receptiveness, and willingness to receive abundance. And when you do receive those very good things, you instinctively and consistently give thanks. 

In other words, gratitude is not a one-time event where you simply say, “Thank you.” It’s an entire way of being in which you joyfully receive good things and give thanks for those good things. 

So, gratitude is a habit. It’s a perpetual way of life, almost like breathing. You take in something good and breathe out gratitude. 

  • Receive
  • Be grateful
  • Receive
  • Be grateful

It’s a beautiful cycle and a powerful way to live. 

Gratitude encompasses all things.  Everything in life happens for a reason, and in every circumstance, there are valuable things for us to learn. These valuable things help us advance in life, primarily in character. 

Because all things contribute to our advancement, we must live a life of gratefulness for all things that come our way.

Gratitude comes from the recognition that you have received something good. In other words, you didn’t create this thing yourself. Rather, it came from outside of you. From a friend. From the universe. Maybe even a complete stranger. 

Because you received something from outside of yourself, it means that you didn’t make it. It’s not like you built something through your blood, sweat, and tears. Rather, someone gave something valuable to you. 

Gratitude is distinctly different than earning something. When we work hard to create something, we can say that we earned it. Gratitude, on the other hand, comes when we receive something that we have not earned. 

Gratitude occurs in response to gifts. In order to be grateful, you must regularly recognize when you have been given good things. You must cultivate the ability to look around and see when good has been done to you or given to you. Gratitude springs forth when we recognize that we have received something. 

Consider this definition of gratitude from Harvard Medical School:

…a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

Notice how gratitude connects you to something larger than yourself. This is one of the great powers of gratitude. It takes us outside of ourselves and connects us to other people, nature, and even a higher power. 

Finally, gratitude is an affirmation of goodness. In other words, it’s recognizing that not only have we received something freely, but that thing we received is also very good. As a result, we are grateful. It’s important to regularly be grateful for and affirm the goodness that flows into our lives. 

When we focus and affirm goodness, it takes our focus off the things that we don’t like about our lives. 

Gratefulness is like a magnifying glass that highlights the good in our lives and minimizes the things that we’re unhappy about. Gratefulness enables us to see just how many good things we have in our lives. On the flip side, when we’re not regularly grateful, we become discontent and unhappy with the way things are going. 

Gratefulness and contentment go hand-in-hand, which is one of the reasons it’s so powerful. Let’s begin to cultivate gratitude, and watch contentment take root.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

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