A Heart of Gratitude

There’s no happier person than a truly thankful, content person. -Joyce Meyer

Thanksgiving, Fall, Pumpkin, Flowers

Gratitude. A very powerful concept. Are you a grateful person? Do you often say ‘thank you’ when you receive a favor? Are you often reminded of your own mortality and live your life everyday filled with gratitude? Do you consider yourself smart and invincible or do you sometimes feel lucky for the breaks you’ve had in life to get you to the level you are now? If I asked you to write a journal about gratitude, what would you write? What are you grateful for?

Just like my blog post on contentment, gratitude is a big part of my life. Money may be the currency of living but gratitude is the currency of life. Actually, there are 3 virtues in life that I’m passionate about. They are

  • Contentment
  • Gratitude
  • Generosity

Now thinking about it, may be I should do a separate blog post about generosity. I sure will think about that. I actually think the 3 virtues are all interconnected.

In this week of Thanksgiving, this topic is quite appropriate. Why is gratitude important? Well, I’m glad you asked. The thing is, having an attitude of gratitude can actually help your finances in the long term.

Gratitude Helps with Delayed Gratification

One of the greatest enemy to your money is the instant gratification that many in our current culture have. This “I’ve got to have it and I’ve got to have it now” mentality has doomed far too many into unnecessary consumer debt. Why? Because they just can’t seem to wait. But one of the emotional aspects of being an adult is the discipline to postpone gratification. It separates you from being a child. Like Dave Ramsey would say, “Adults devise a plan and follow it; children do what feels good”. However many adults these days just keep on doing what feels good. How can gratitude help? A lot! If you feel grateful for whatever little you have now, it can condition you to expect plenty later. According to a study published in the journal Psychological Science, feelings of gratitude can combat a tendency toward instant gratification. Those who demonstrated higher feelings of gratitude were more likely to choose to receive $80 in 30 days, rather than choosing to receive $54 now. In this study, they are equating patience to gratitude and I can see why. A grateful heart feels fulfilled at any point in time, regardless of its current situations, and can afford to be patient. A patient dog eats the fattest bone….that patient dog is a grateful dog because it can wait. Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness and turns whatever we have into enough.

Gratitude Encourages Humility

We, as a society, promote hard work, perseverance, diligence and industry in other to be successful in life. Many people put these values in their lives and achieve tremendous success. Occasionally it tends to get to our heads and we feel that we did it all by ourselves. However, sometimes often left in the discussion, is the fact that there are other aspects of one’s success that is not attributable to you. Some people call it luck, but many hate that word ‘luck’ especially if they feel they have strived hard for their success and nothing was given to them. But have you ever considered that just the mere fact that you were born in a certain country, born into a certain family or race, born a male gender, born into a royal family etc. sets you up for great success? A child born in America is more than 100x more likely to become successful in life than a child born in rural Burundi to peasant parents. It’s just that simple. Now, you had nothing to do with where you are born into, yet it may help to set you up for success. If you are mindful and grateful of this simple fact, it can keep you humble.

Consider some of the little help you may have gotten on your way up the ladder. My own personal story is rich with anecdotes like that. My journey of how I got to America started with a random kind assistance by a friend and colleague who helped to nudge me in this direction. I forever remain grateful to that friend and never take it for granted. It helps me stay humble and not get cocky. I was not all that. I am certainly not better than many kids that are languishing in many 3rd world countries who, regardless of their talents, do not get any opportunities to achieve success. A grateful heart removes that pride in your heart that gives you a warped sense of importance. A grateful heart makes you understand that even though it’s nice to be important, it’s more important to be nice. What’s more, an attitude of gratitude makes you appreciate people even for the simplest things. And in the process, it makes you a more attractive personality.

Gratitude Promotes Generosity

You’re much more willing to give to others when you feel grateful, according to this research cited by UC Berkeley. The  research does support the idea that gratitude helps people who practice it. They report fewer physical symptoms of illness, more optimism, greater goal attainment, and decreased anxiety and depression, among other health benefits. So, how does this tie into better finances?

Well, actually giving can help you financially. First of all, when you make giving to charitable causes a priority, you’re forced to re-evaluate your finances so that you can meet your objectives. That means getting your financial house in order by budgeting, tracking your spending and reducing expenses so that you create enough money to donate to causes you care about. This is enough reason to be grateful and generous. For those who are Christians, one of the commonest forms of charitable giving is tithing (giving 10% of your income to your local church). You just cannot afford to be tithing routinely if you don’t have a grateful heart. It’s just not possible. Now, tithing gets a very bad rap in the Christian community….mostly from people who don’t tithe. Some argue that some churches and pastors actually feed fat on the tithe of poor church members and encourage people not to tithe. However, from my own anecdotal experience, most people who tithe don’t complain about it and do it graciously (it’s not mandatory after all) and most people who complain about tithes do not actually give to other charitable activities either or at least their giving is nowhere near the 10% of their income required of tithing. Those with a grateful heart who give end up feeling better about themselves and even managing their money better. And you also get a little tax break from your charitable giving.

When you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect toward others. -Dalai Lama

Gratitude Cultivates Contentment

Thanks, Gratitude, Smile, Appreciation

When you feel grateful for what you have, you are also more likely to feel content with your situation, regardless of where you are in life. It can help you avoid the problems associated with “hedonic adaptation.” Nobel prize winning Behavioral Psychologist Daniel Kahneman points out that we quickly become used to a “new normal” when it comes to money and possessions.

You get to a certain level of income, or you buy something new, and your expectations adapt to the point where those things no longer provide you with the same level of satisfaction. They are fixtures in your life, and they are “your due” or they are “normal.” So, you get a quick feeling of short-lived excitement from a new purchase, but it doesn’t always translate into long-term happiness. Tomorrow, you’ll want something else, or wish you had even more money.

However, learning contentment with the help of gratitude can help you decouple feelings of happiness from buying more stuff or thinking that a higher income can help you achieve your dreams of life satisfaction.

Instead, by practicing gratitude, you might find that you don’t feel the need to spend a lot of money to feel happy. Learn contentment, and you’ll be more likely to spend money on others, save money for long-term goals that will help you feel more fulfilled in the long run, and avoid impulse buys that can break your short-term budget.

Thank You, Polaroid, Letters

The book Little Things Matter  by Todd Smith profiled the power of gratitude like no other book I ever read. It encourages you during times when you are feeling down and discouraged to stop and think about all the things for which you can be grateful and thankful for. Can’t think of anything right now to be thankful for? Well, try these:

  • If you can see, you have it better than the 40 million people worldwide who are blind
  • When you are crying in the shower over a problem, be grateful that you are standing in a shower. Over 1 billion people don’t have this ordinary convenience
  • Next time you want to complain about your job, just remember there are 240 million adults who wished they had a job to complain about
  • No matter how bad you think your life is, stop to consider that you have it better than 775 million illiterate people who wouldn’t be able to read this post, even if it was written in their native language

Charles Dickens said, “Reflect upon your present blessings of which everyone has many; not on your past misfortunes of which all people have some”.

Successful people practice gratitude. Really, how can you be called successful if you’re not happy and thankful for all life has to offer?  So how can you cultivate a heart of gratitude? Try these ways:

#1  Write it Down

Keep a gratitude journal. Try it for a few days, say 1 month. Be specific about what you’re thankful for. Try it for example with your spouse: even on the days you quarrel over mundane things, force yourself to find something you are grateful for in your spouse and write it down. See how your thoughts develop over time.

#2 Meditate

Take a break and meditate. Focus on a spirit of thankfulness. Who are you thankful for? Bring the person or persons to mind. Imagine your life surrounded with blessings

#3 Talk About it

Make it a habit to talk about what you are grateful and thankful for all year round, not just during Thanksgiving. It will help to reinforce your feelings

#4 Express it

Find that mentor who made a meaningful difference in your life and tell him. Write a personal note and tell a long-lost friend what he/she meant to you

#5 Seek it

If you want to be grateful and thankful, find people who are like that too. There are some people who are full of zest and bubble over with enthusiasm and gratitude for life. Connect with such people and enjoy the spark that brings to your life.

So on this Thanksgiving week, what exactly are you grateful and thankful about? Comment below.

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