The Gratitude Attitude
But most of all, be thankful.
Can you imagine a world where we didn’t say thank you? If the coffee placed in front of us was greeted with a blank stare? If we were stopped in the street, told how wonderful we looked by a stranger but just kept walking? If we accepted a drawing from a child without giving any response? We live in a society where being thankful is humane and expected. But are we simply reciting social niceties without actually practicing gratitude?
First rule of gratitude club – say thank you! Ever thought about where these two words originated from? In English, thank you is derived from the word ‘think’ therefore the original way of expressing gratitude was all about remembering a kind gesture and returning it. It was the language of middle-class office and shop workers during the commercial revolution in the 16th century. In Japan, just one thank you isn’t enough and is commonly said at various volumes by several staff when a customer leaves a restaurant. Showing thanks and respect also comes in the form of bowing. But gratitude goes far deeper than those two simple words (and a bend at the hips), in any language.
As one of the first lessons we learn as kids, there is something quite hollow about telling a child to say thank you. Children simply do as commanded – it’s not until later that the words have meaning. But teaching a child to say thank you sometimes means associating shame or blame with being polite. Thankfully (J) appreciation grows as do we and those two powerful words develop sincerity and significance.
Whether the basic morality of thanks is shown in the form of a gift, a gesture or verbalised, appreciation is a powerful tool that dramatically impacts how we relate to others and honour ourselves.
In Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, he discovered that human motivation begins with basic needs like food and safety, moving into psychological needs like belonging and accomplishment and finishes with the need for self-fulfilment – achieving one’s full potential. Once we achieve self-actualisation, it is then that gratitude truly takes form. But if we look at the way we consume when unfulfilled – social media, online shopping, alcohol, botox, etc – we are outwardly searching for satisfaction in all the wrong places. These offer instant gratification but the long term you suffers. Once material desires are removed, there is no choice but to look inward. Visiting an underprivileged community or third world country, experiencing some kind of struggle or being given a second chance generally offers us that necessary reality gratitude check.
There are plenty of other ways to check-in with yourself and lead a more grateful existence. Be an active listener. Make eye contact. Give compliments. Hug more. But before all this, we must show more self-gratitude. Thanking ourselves with that simple sign of respect we all deserve. Be gentle. Remove toxic thought. Nourish your body. Embrace the natural world. Buddha said, “You, yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” So, make sure you take time every day, even if all you have is a moment, to say thank you (in whichever language you prefer). Oh and don’t forget to thank your waitress :)
“Each day I am thankful for nights that turned into mornings, friends that turned into family, dreams that turned into reality, and likes that turned into love.” – tinybuddha.com