Gratitude seems to be one of those things folks struggle with anymore. What is gratitude and where does it come from? Just how important is it? What effects does it have on our daily life and our general outlook? Where does it lead? I believe that gratitude is one of the biggest determiners of happiness in a person’s life.

Most folks if you ask them have different definitions for what happiness looks like. They live in the pursuit of something that is always just out of reach. If only I could get a job, a better job, a promotion…if only I had enough money to do what I want to do…if only I had a this or a that I could be happy…They look at social media and compare themselves to the stories of the people on the little screens and look at their own circumstances and come up short. They follow the media and swing from panic state to panic state as crisis after crisis bombards them with the same message just packaged a little differently. Be afraid…be very afraid…

Happiness is a construct we create to define what we consider to be a good place to be. It is so important to our individual well being that our constitution even says that in this great land we have the right to pursue happiness. My vision of happiness is mine alone, each one of us has an idea of what happiness should look like and what it should feel like when we stumble across it on our trip across time and space. Some of us have made the mistake of giving other people the key to our happiness, looking for someone to fill the void and create for us that space where we feel most content. We wait for someone else to take care of us giving them a power over us that they should not possess.

I have discovered that one of the keys to that elusive state of happiness lies in gratitude. This Thanksgiving Holiday, a uniquely American Holiday, has historically been a time to reflect on our lives and the things in it that we appreciate, the things that lift us up, support us and make us better people. From the very basics of life, Food, clothes and shelter to the extraordinary happenstances that occur; we have many things to be grateful for. Gratitude is one of the least practiced graces I’ve seen lately. Our society is a short tempered, demanding and complaining lot by and large. We have plenty of time to list all that is wrong in the world. Every sling and slight is recorded on a score card and the score is always overbalanced on the side of all that is wrong in the world. When a body is so busy cataloging all the negative things they encounter they don’t have the eyes to see their blessings; they don’t have the mindset to appreciate the little things that are so precious, and they miss out on so much beauty in the world. There is not room in the psyche for complaining and gratitude to co-exist.

I would encourage everyone to stop, turn off the narrative, and take a long, hard look at their life. Get out a piece of paper and list everything good, everything positive, and all that has gone right, from the smallest to the largest of blessings, they are there waiting to be counted and acknowledged. Gratitude, a heart full of thanksgiving, will light up a dark world. It will change your very countenance. People will respond to your positive attitude and like a virus…it just might catch and spread.

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