By Marilyn Tam
Why being grateful creates happiness and more good
'Twas the worst of times. My husband died suddenly of a heart attack. I stopped working from the shock, my family was preoccupied and on another continent, and friends stayed away because they didn’t know how to deal with death so early in our lives.
I was alone, no work, no income, and no place I wanted to be. Getting up in the morning seemed like an exercise in futility. Why bother? There was no one there, nothing to do, no place to go, and money was dwindling away.
Giving thanks saved me.
In the depths of my depression and listlessness, I turned inward. I prayed. I prayed for clarity, the reason for being, for what’s next.
Somehow in that place of despair I heard an inner voice say to me, “Give Thanks”. Give thanks? For what? Yet the voice persisted. Give thanks. It was more a command than a suggestion.
In the midst of depression and confusion, you can find a heart of gratitude.
So, I developed a ritual. Upon awakening from another restless night, I forced myself to list five things I am grateful for before I get up. Small things like, I can get ready very quickly, my teeth are naturally straight, I don’t have any appointments to rush off to etc.
Each morning I struggled to come up with five things to give thanks for. Some days it was hard. Other days it was really, really hard. But somehow after I listed the five, getting up became easier. Little by little the darkness cracked, and tiny slivers of light broke through, if only for a moment here and there.
During my periods of equanimity, I started sorting out what to do next. Change out of my PJs. Exercise. Eat. Do things for others. Learn new things. Give thanks. Repeat. Repeat again.
Gradually, over some time, things became more manageable. Then an executive recruiter called out of the blue to offer me a dream job. I accepted the job and moved across the country to a new life. Giving thanks all the way. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Yes. Grateful. Happy.
Give thanks and the sun will shine again and you will dance again.
Brother David Steindl-Rast developed a deep appreciation of gratitude from living day to day with death imminent under Nazi occupation in Austria.
Heis now a Benedictine monk and a leader in Buddhist-Christian dialogue, alternatively traveling the world speaking on spirituality and gratitude, and spending time in deep retreat.
Brother David, his teaching and life is about gratitude.
His short video (5.23), “A Grateful Day” has been viewed over 1.1 Million times. Many people and groups use it and his teachings in their daily meditation. He preaches that if you wish to be happy, be grateful. The very same core message that I received when I was in deep despair.
Brother David established the interactive website, www.Gratefulness.org, which serves as the home for the worldwide Network for Grateful Living. It is a place where you can find support for living each day with gratitude in your heart.
It is no wonder that many cultures have a thanksgiving festival. Instinctively and traditionally, people have found that giving thanks leads to more reasons to give thanks. Like attracts like.
You can use this to power your own happiness and thankfulness. Give thanks for what you have now, no matter how meager it may seem to you. Your current situation is one that some else would be grateful for. Find things in your life to give thanks for and soon, you will find that you indeed have more to be pleased about!
Express gratitude in whatever way that feels authentic to you. Persist in doing so even when it’s difficult to feel grateful for your life. You will find as you do, that you’ll be happier and more good things will flow into your life too.
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