In Search of Happiness? Cultivate Gratitude

Cultivating gratitude is a sure path to happiness.

Cultivating gratitude is a sure path to happiness.

If you’re in search of greater happiness, cultivating gratitude is a sure way to immediately change how you view yourself, your life and your circumstances.  In my conversations with artists and people who want to bring greater beauty, meaning and purpose into their lives, a key question I often ask is, “How are you cultivating gratitude in your life?” It’s a question that often turns heads because it’s not what they expect to hear. And that’s just the point.

Cultivating gratitude is so subtle, it’s easily missed. Practicing gratitude is one the most important spiritual practices I can think of to radically transform how you view your immediate circumstances. Cultivating gratitude really works and here’s why…

Gratitude is Right Here. Right Now.

Too many people are waiting for happiness to come to them.

They’ve fallen into the trap of believing that happiness is somewhere. Out there. Elusive and out of the reach until the universe finally conspires to work for them instead of against them. Happiness will come with the next job promotion, which will bring more money, which will mean more vacations so I can take a break from the pressures of work, my relatives and those dang kids.

Happiness means the next new car, the new home, the next spa day with my girlfriends or the Monday Night Football with the guys. Happiness is that elusive thing we are searching for to satisfy the restless ache in our hearts longing for relief, rest and safety.

Too often, happiness is described as future dreams and desires finally “happening” to us instead of the awesome present reality of cultivating gratitude for “what is” in the here and now.

I already know what some of you are thinking: if your life sucks right now, cultivating gratitude is the last thing you want to hear! You may be facing some truly difficult circumstances right now that may not change for some time. Outcomes and other people’s choices are out of your control. The only thing you can truly control is your attitude and how you choose to look at your situation.

So why choose the poisonous toxicity of negativity, self-pity, anger, self-hatred, and a couple hits of narcissistic entitlement?

There’s nothing like adversity to expose what we think we’re entitled to, especially a happy life.

Cultivating gratitude is the great equalizer between what I want and what I really need.

Cultivating gratitude can change the soil condition of your heart. It removes the weeds, rocks and vermin holes that have tunneled deep into your spirit.

Gratitude is available right here and right now. It focuses on what you have and not what you don’t. Gratitude doesn’t require your circumstances to change. It’s a choice that accessible to you here and now.

One thing I’ve been particularly grateful for lately is smooth roads. Yes, the highways, byways, freeways and my local city streets I drive on every day. Strange, you say?

Last month I returned from two weeks in Africa, where I spent a week in Goma, Eastern Congo. Goma has a nearby volcano that erupted in 2002, unleashing a lava flow that destroyed the town. Most of the roads were never repaired and are still covered with lava. Lava rocks. Lava potholes. Lava ruts and lava washboards. Every form of bad road you can imagine, Goma has it.

So, right here, right now, I’m grateful for smooth roads.

Gratitude is a Sure Path to Happiness

Funny how this works, but as you practice gratitude in the here and now, your attitude and perspective begin to change. It’s a mysterious notion, I know. And when your perspective changes, what happens then? You actually become happy.

Happiness is no longer found in the aching reaching for something more. Your happiness becomes a solid contentment for what is.

Right now, I am grateful for a fresh set of clothes. Air conditioning. Iced coffee. Yesterday’s monsoon downpour. Spin class with Krista last night. Art on my wall. And great friends.Is my life perfect? Of course not… but is it supposed to be?

Cultivating gratitude doesn’t require perfection, but pushes our hearts and minds forward in this journey of wholeness available to us in Christ.

Gratitude is the Dark Chocolate of the Soul

I don’t know about you, but dark chocolate makes me happy AND grateful. When I nibble on a piece of dark chocolate sprinkled with sea salt, my immediate response is, “I’m so glad God created taste buds!” If you have nothing to be grateful for today, but taste buds, well then, give thanks for taste buds!

Friends, cultivating gratitude isn’t rocket science. All you need is a pen and paper, your journal or the note app on your smartphone. Write down everything you are grateful for. You can begin with the obvious like your spouse, family, friends (if you’re grateful for them…not everyone is!). But then, get more specific.

What are the things in your life that you are really grateful for? The simple, everyday gifts you tend to overlook? Flowers. Sunsets. Your favorite book or movie. Pizza. The beach. Mountains. Laughter. Coffee. Quiet. Music. Choosing to cultivate gratitude is accessible to you right now and it offers you all the benefits that lead to a happy life.

I’m not being flip.

Cultivating gratitude, no matter how difficult your circumstances, is a lifesaver because it is life-giving.

 

Cultivating gratitude is a time-tested spiritual practice extolled by the ancients guaranteed to keep you moving forward by rooting deep in the present.

No matter how big the potholes.

Questions: What are you grateful for today? How can you practice cultivating gratitude in your life?

I’d love your ideas, comments, and questions.

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.