“Grateful people are joyful people, and the more and more joyful people there are, the more and more we’ll have a joyful world.” David Steindl-Rast
The world can feel like a rough place sometimes. All it takes is 5 minutes of watching pretty much any news program to feel like there’s more bad in the world than good.
While there is a lot of good in the world and news outlets are definitely more motivated to report the bad stuff, there’s no denying that there’s a lot of violence, cruelty, and unkindness out there.
Much of this is because people aren’t happy. It seems simple, but when people are happy, they tend to treat other people much better. And in the immortal words of Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, “Happy people don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.”
A joyful world is a peaceful world. And isn’t that what elevating the human experience is all about?
Do You Want to Be Happy? Be Grateful.
In this month’s culture topic video, David Steindl-Rast explains how gratitude can make us happier and, as a result, potentially change the world. He also offers a refreshing take on gratitude that you may not have heard before! Watch it here.
Elevating the Human Experience with Gratitude
“If you’re grateful, you’re not fearful. And if you’re not fearful, you’re not violent. When you’re grateful, you act out of a sense of enough, and not out of a sense of scarcity. You’re enjoying the differences between people and being respectful to everybody.” -David Steindl-Rast
Gratitude is key for happiness, an essential part of elevating the human experience, and also plays a key role in several of our core values.
Take our value of Reflection, for example. When we take time to reflect on what works in our lives and what doesn’t, we can also note what we’re grateful for. This lens of gratitude can open us up to possibility and help us more clearly see what’s going on in our lives, how we’re doing, and how far we’ve come.
When we make reflection and gratitude a regular part of our day, we can approach life with more openness, positivity, generosity, and energy.
Gratitude can also enhance our Passion for Contribution and Ubuntu because when we are grateful for our work and the people around us, we can show up more fully in our roles at work and at home, and come closer to reaching our full potential.
After all, any change you make in the world has to start with you. And even if you only ever change yourself, that’s worth it! Your joy will still ripple outward to the people around you, which elevates your human experience and theirs as well.
How to Live More Gratefully
So how can you make gratitude a habit and reap the benefits?
This isn’t about stuffing down challenging feelings or grinning and bearing it. This is just about looking a little longer to see what else there is in the moment.
Maybe while you’re driving to your divorce lawyer’s office for a hearing, you notice that you’re hitting lots of green lights, or that it’s a nice sunny day, or that there are some pretty flowers blooming in the median.
If you’re sitting in the hospital with a loved one who’s been in an accident, maybe you have a moment of gratitude for a kind nurse, for a cup of tea from the cafeteria, or for modern medicine in general. Even though the situation is dire, each moment still bears a gift. If you look longer, you may notice that gift.
It’s not about turning that frown upside down or trying to force yourself to feel grateful when you’re really not. You don’t have to try to feel grateful for needing a root canal or that your furnace died and your pipes froze. No one expects you to feel grateful for war, loss, cruelty, or pain.
As Steindl-Rast says, living gratefully is recognizing that every moment is a gift. It’s making a habit of noticing the good things, the beautiful things, and the small things that we take for granted. The more we recognize the gift each moment offers, the more we can find something to be grateful for.
To make this a habit, we love Steindl-Rast’s simple Stop, Look, Go method.
So how might that look in your life?
Add some intentional stop signs to your life like stickers, Post-Its, a timer on your phone, or even art to remind yourself to pause. It’s so easy to get swept up in the to-dos and busy-ness of life that we forget to pause and enjoy the gift of the moment. Sometimes a little reminder can make all the difference!
Try setting up a visual or auditory reminder to stop for a moment of gratitude. Isn’t it nice that something as simple as a sticker on a light switch or a phone timer can be such a powerful catalyst for happiness?
When you see your reminder or when your phone timer goes off, look for the gift in the moment. What is there to appreciate, right now?
Choose how you want to respond. Can you find something to be grateful in this moment? Can you be grateful for the moment itself?
If not, remember, each moment is a gift. But you get another moment, and another. If you don't accept the gift in one moment, you get another opportunity and another. (Hello, abundance mindset!)
To Be Grateful Is To Be Happy
Remember, it’s not that happy people are grateful, it’s that grateful people are happy.
Happiness and gratitude don’t have to be elusive, complicated, or difficult to come by. You don’t have to be a naturally happy-go-lucky person to feel grateful. It can be as simple as accepting the gift that each moment brings. (And, by the way, practicing this will train your brain to be optimistic, because you’ll be scanning for the positive things!)
It might be noticing how pretty the sky is. It might be feeling glad when you brush your teeth, that you have running water, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and teeth to brush in the first place.
If you’re in the middle of a challenging period or having a bad day it can even be, for just a moment, smiling because it’s a sunny day, because your favorite song came on the radio, or because you have a roof over your head. You can still appreciate all your body does for you without you even having to think about it. (Because you definitely notice this when you get sick, don’t you?)
And when you feel happier and more grateful, those around you will benefit as well. And others will benefit from their happiness, and the joy will ripple outward!
As Steindl-Rast says, “Nothing makes us more happy than when all of us are happy.”
Now stop, look, go!
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