Saturday March 18, 2017
By: Nada Rafaat
We have no choice in the circumstances which we are born into, but our life experiences and what we make out of it depends on how we shape, steer and direct our thoughts. We often think that becoming successful and getting what we want in life requires only hard work. Of course, hard work is the key to success, however, to be able to truly shape our lives, we first have to change the way we think. Improving the quality of our lives, will require us to learn to practice gratitude.
In a TED Talk on gratefulness, David Steindl-Rast, the Benedictine monk from upstate New York said, “it’s not happiness that makes us grateful, it’s gratefulness that makes us happy.” It is important to give ourselves a chance every once in a while, to think about what we are grateful for in life. Thinking about what makes us grateful enhances our feeling of joy and satisfaction, and in return, our problems and challenges will appear smaller. They won’t disappear, but we won’t feel weighed down by them.
Studies have identified gratitude as the key element to happiness, but just knowing this won’t make us happy, but how we act upon this knowledge. It is difficult for us to remember to be grateful all the time. We usually feel the highest level of gratitude when we are not feeling well, or when we encounter tragic events or incidents that shake our safety and push us out of our comfort zones . To sustain happiness, we have to learn to live every moment in gratitude, and not just to be grateful every once in a while.
Steindl-Rast explained a simple method to achieve that. In his TED Talk, he said, “It’s so simple that it’s actually what we were told as children when we learned to cross the street. STOP, LOOK, GO. That’s all. But how often do we stop?” We rush through life without stopping to look, and we miss many opportunities because of that. To become happy, it is important to learn to “stop and look,” to open out hearts to new opportunities, and to improve our way of thinking.
We are always thankful when we are shown kindness, but we tend to overlook the challenges we encountered in our lives that molded us to become who we are today. Being grateful does not mean we need to feel a sense of bliss constantly, but rather realize what helped us change and grow, and what guided us or even forced us to experience life from a different perspective.
We shouldn’t look at the challenges, difficulties or the pain we experience through life entirely from a negative perspective, but also as opportunities to learn and grow, and be grateful for. If we can do this, we’ll live day to day in peace and joy, and gratefulness will become a natural state of mind.
Remember, gratefulness is much like exercise. Reaching tangible results requires constant practice.