Gratitude means thanks and appreciation. It’s the warm feeling you get when you remember the person who told you to drop your 1980s hairstyle and get with the new millennium already. Though they both recognize the instrumental roles others have played in our lives, gratitude is different from indebtedness. Gratitude, which rhymes with “attitude,” comes from the Latin word gratus, which means “thankful, pleasing.” When you feel gratitude, you’re pleased by what someone did for you and also pleased by the results. Unlike indebtedness, you’re not anxious about having to pay it back. But it’s still great to tell the recipient of your gratitude how much they mean to you.
I think it goes without saying that many of us have spent quite a bit of our life confusing gratitude with indebtedness. I know I have, which always made receiving a bit of a challenge. I hated getting gifts. I would dread Christmas, birthdays, random gift exchanges even getting compliments was hard for me. The odd thing is I love to give gifts and do nice things for other people. I have been told that this is due to a lack of self worth but I beg to differ. I know and understand my worth I am just not vocal about it.
I like to perform random acts of kindness. Why Random? Well, because they are random acts, directed at random people (aka strangers) at random times and random places. It seems, to me, that I am hard-wired to do it, I simply can not help myself. I like that there is no obligatory reciprocity to suck the magic out of the exchange. If I pass someone that looks like they need a smile I give a smile. They smile back sometimes with a quizzical look but they smile back. Small stuff but powerful.
It is powerful because I know what it is like to feel aimless and lost, and look up into a sea of scowling or disinterested faces and find that one person that makes eye contact with you and smiles. Not just any smile but a smile that conveys a thousand things, simultaneously. A smile that comforts, and gives you hope, makes you feel less alone and less misunderstood. It will get better and you “know” it from that second on. I also now know what it feels like to be that person that gave the smile and it feels just as wonderful as receiving it.
It, for me, has gone beyond a smile, a kind word, giving the shirt off your back (in my case a winter coat), helping someone in distress, sharing a meal with someone that lacked one and witnessing them share the extras you sent with them with others. Small, seemingly insignificant acts that mean the world to someone that was struggling. I prefer to be kind in this way. I am grateful for the kindness that others have shown me in my time of need and so when I can I pay it back and find that everything feels right or balanced in my world.
There are little things that you can do to start bringing in a cycle of gratitude. 2 years after my bipolar diagnosis I started keeping a gratitude journal. I wrote in it every morning and every evening, each time listing 5 things I was grateful for (and they must always be different than previous entries). I thought this was going to be easy and it turned out that I struggled with it…at first. I also felt like the biggest ingrate on planet Earth but I stuck with it and I discovered that there is a bit of magic that happens. You are hard pressed to find things to be grateful for in the beginning and then you start looking for things and then things just started raining from the heavens. It was amazing. You also have to daily diligently practice this or you begin to lose the magic.
Do small things for strangers. Smile at someone who looks like they need one. Open doors for the elderly, mother’s with small children and those that just need a hand. Say Thank You and smile if someone opens a door for you. Pay attention if someone is speaking to you…put down your phone, Facebook can wait. Be polite. Little things can go a long way in turning someone’s day (including yours) around and this type of kindness is free, although it might cost you a bit of time. If you can do more…than do so, if not, just be kind.
…you will find that…
You reap what you sow. Yes, it is a karmic law and the progenitor to the Golden Rule but it is very true. Give what you want more of in life, give without expectation, receive whatever you are given with gratitude and keep this cycle going and watch magical things happen. This is truly how you manifest abundance. Just remember, if you want more in life you must first be grateful for what you already have.
Photo taken in Shimla, India with Nikon DSLR5300 by Pamela