Here and there, I’ve been noticing studies in my newsfeeds showing that gratitude helps the mind. Gratitude is one of the common denominators of successful people. Gratitude reminds us of all the things that contribute to our happiness, our sanity, our survival. Gratitude is a habit that must be practiced every single day. And I feel gratitude in the golden hour.
Run a search on the phrase, “studies of gratitude” and you’ll find “listicles” of all the benefits of gratitude. Here’s a sample from Forbes Magazine. You won’t have trouble finding them. Google returned better than 133,000,000 hits in 0.47 seconds for me. I have gratitude just knowing that finding what I want to learn is so easily within reach.
The most successful people I have ever seen have gratitude. My favorite examples can be found in the award shows on television, like the Grammys, the Oscars, and the Golden Globe Awards. Every single winner that gets on stage after the envelope is opened, gushes with gratitude. They thank their agents, their producers, directors, their mentors, their spouses, their gods, and anything else they can think of that contributed to their success. Successful people, truly successful people, recognize that their own success is a team effort. And they have gratitude for their team.
Gratitude is what I use to remind myself of all the good things in my life that come to me without very much intervention on my part. I mean, I work for a living, to be sure, but I didn’t “make” any of the things bring me joy or make my life better.
When I consider my surroundings, I am touching clothing. I didn’t make that. I am touching a keyboard. I didn’t make that. I am sitting on a chair. I didn’t make that, either. I am looking at my words on a screen, I didn’t make that. I didn’t make the words that I’m writing here now. Someone else invented them for me to use. The music I’m playing on my headset, I didn’t make the music or the headset. The room I’m in, I didn’t make that. I hired someone else to build it.
I am grateful that I only needed to do my day job, collect hundreds of paychecks, and that I could use that money to buy the things that make my life what it is today.
This line of thinking goes even deeper. The air that I breathe? I didn’t make that. The plants on the earth made it breathable for me. The light in the room that lets me see? Generated by electricity, and when the sun comes up, there will be more light that I didn’t have to create. And my body…
My body is composed of trillions of cells that are cooperating in a manner that allows me to experience life. I didn’t make them. Something else made them. Those cells, in turn, are made of trillions of atoms and they were made in the stars. And those atoms are composed of tiny particles that no one has ever directly observed. They act as particle and wave, and our best theories concern merely the probabilities of their locations and velocity. Yet somehow, I’m here. And I didn’t make all those teeny tiny little things.
Then there are the people in my life. I am grateful for them, even if the feeling is not mutual. I don’t worry too much about reciprocation. My philosophy with people is simple. If you show up, I show up. If you stop showing up, I will find someone else to be with, something else to do. I’ll be OK. You’re not responsible for my happiness. But if you’re in my life, if you think I’m worthy of your time, I’m grateful for the time you’ve spent with me. And I didn’t create you. Something else did that.
I have made a habit of gratitude. I write a list of ten things that I’m grateful for every morning when I rise. I use gratitude on difficult days. I don’t really have “bad” days, because that would mean the day, the whole world, is out to get me. I’d have to take it personally. And the world is just not that small.
So I remind myself that I might be having a challenging day. And the day goes better. On difficult days, I remind myself of all those things that I like, or that make my life more convenient, or that just give me a bit of joy. And any joy that I have is a result of a choice I’ve made to allow it.
I have even used gratitude at the end of a very difficult day to lull myself to sleep. I just notice the things I’m grateful for, over and over, if I need to. Taking notice of everything in my life that I’m grateful for requires energy, and that requires concentration. Acknowledging what I’m grateful for is like reading, and in turn, the action of gratitude, ’cause I think it’s a verb, leads to decision fatigue, and then sweet, blissful sleep.
I use gratitude even when the day is good. I use it when the day is hard. Every hour, and even every minute if I need to. Gratitude is an infinite resource. At the end of the day, when the sun is low on the horizon, and the light is golden, I’m in gratitude. Sometimes, when I’m away from home, and the sunset is not obscured by mountains, the light is red, letting me know that the end of the day is near.
And I bask in that golden and sometimes red light, and remember that I had a fun day. I remember that I was with family, that I spent time with people I love. That I spent time with people who laugh at my jokes, and people who made me laugh. That I did some of the things that I enjoy doing.
And I let that be enough for a day.