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Just Stopped To Say Thank You*

Gratitude is the ability to stop the noise of life and take a moment to be thankful for all the good in your life, both material and non material. We can be thankful for loving parents, good friends, a roof over your head and food in our belly. It also makes us look at the relationships we have with others and how they contribute to our wellbeing and taking the trouble to show appreciation.

Gratitude also stops us from constantly looking for at all that is lacking in our lives and making ourselves miserable or envious. Instead, it makes us grateful for all that we have achieved and all the challenges we have overcome, because that after all is a measure of our self worth.

It is also not the same as thanking someone. Saying thank you is often a social courtesy and though polite, is not the same as gratitude which is a feeling that is internalised within the recipient and which can be recalled in memories to make us feel good.

Being grateful connects us with others and allows us to empathise with others who may not have the same privileges – it therefore can lead to acts of kindness towards others, forming a chain effect.

Gratitude allows us to be happy in the present, to look back at the past and count our blessings, and look to the future with a positive attitude. In short, it allows us to be truly happy.

Does it mean that if we are grateful we stop begin ambitious? Not at all, we should all strive to be the best we can be. However, ambition is often based on competing and comparing ourselves with others and becoming down hearted when we don’t reach those goals we aimed for and forgetting all that we have achieved and all the good things in our current life. You all know that old saying “stop and smell the roses” – well gratitude is stopping to smell the roses and being thankful that the roses exist! One of the things I love doing is to look up at the mouldings on old buildings that I pass in the city and appreciate the craftsmanship and beauty, but so often people hurry by with their noses buried in their phones not noticing the beauty around them. They are so focused in their heads on getting to the end of the destination they forget to enjoy the journey!

In modern society there is this fear of missing out, of not having enough. However, in the present, there is only what we have and we need to learn to appreciate it. Both my husband and I had jobs we loved, but now we are retired. We are happy to use the time that we have to enjoy each other’s company, share time with friends and indulge in our hobbies. We are thankful for what we have achieved and we are not filled with regret for any goals that we may never have reached.

So maybe instead of goading children to constantly achieve we should get them to understand the elusive quality of gratitude, so that at each stage of their life they appreciate what they have; and in achieving their goals they acknowledge the part played by significant people in their lives who have helped them.

I was quite touched when my friend’s children made us thank you cards for their Christmas presents. But the eldest, who is twelve, included a little message from the younger brother who is a baby and cannot as yet express his thanks. It is not the gifts that they got that mattered, but the fact that they acknowledged its receipt and didn’t assume it was their right to get a gift.

Does feeling grateful make you feel that you should place the giver on a pedestal and overlook their shortcomings? Certainly not. Nobody is perfect so looking at them through rose tinted glasses just distorts reality. Someone in your life could always be kind to you, and though you appreciate them for their kindness you should not think that they are beyond criticism. No one is – each and every one of us is a different shade of grey.

Some people also find it very hard to express gratitude. Often in my work, I have found that they have been let down by significant others in their childhoods. So when someone is kind to them, they are unable to accept the genuine generosity of spirit behind the action and they look for ulterior motives. They also see expressing gratitude as a form of weakness that exposes them to emotional vulnerability and hold the belief that in the end everyone lets you down. Such people are never happy or carefree and often come across as ungrateful. Yes, people can let you down, can make you feel hurt, but feelings are what makes us truly human.

Gratitude actually results in changes in our brain, activating the reward centres and releasing serotonin and dopamine. It helps people to tackle problems with a more positive attitude and connect with their emotions.

The most important thing is to remember that our lives and everything in it is a gift, some of it may not have been perfect, but even these have perhaps taught us lessons in coping. But being thankful and feeling gratitude, is the pathway to contentment and true peace of mind.


*This article was written by ‘The Common Sense Therapist’, a retired psychologist who lives overseas and wishes to remain anonymous. She has many decades of experience in dealing with various people and aspects of psychology, and is a great source of enlightenment on many things in life.



Meet Lilanka
“what is meant to be comes about of what one does”.
An eclectic personality with a penchant for creativity, Lilanka is an old soul who loves life, laughter and stepping off the beaten track. She finds joy in nature, travelling and venting her existential frustrations via her writing while calming her body with food and her soul with music. Her motto is – “what is meant to be comes about of what one does”.
A collection of eclectic expressions from life according to Lilanka Botejue. From her creative outbursts and passionate views to her love for nature, food, music and archaeology, Owl Muses is an attempt to capture these moments in time.
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