Where does the balance rest between gratitude and happiness? Do you need to have gratitude to be happy? If you are happy, are you automatically grateful?
The other day I was watching a morning news anchor interview a celebrity. He asked her how she is coping during the pandemic. I heard her say, “I’m grateful to be happy.”
(To be honest, that’s not what she said. Later I re-watched the video and realized her reply was “I’m grateful to be healthy.” The kitchen faucet was running, which caused me to hear her incorrectly, but since what I thought I heard activated my introspection mode, that’s what I call a “happy accident.”)
I started wondering about the relationship between gratitude and happiness. Using the same remedy that appeased my curiosity about confidence and compliments, I began Googling. Here’s what I learned.
If it is peace you want, then it is gratitude you must find.
I don’t remember anyone ever talking about a journey to find gratefulness, but a journey to find happiness is talked about all the time. If happiness is your destination, then it seems like gratefulness will be one leg of your journey.
People with gratitude are seen to be more hopeful, energetic, forgiving, empathetic, and helpful. With all of those qualities taking the spotlight, negative thoughts get upstaged. Gloom is replaced with happiness, which changes your whole perspective, even across the expanse of your lifetime — past, present and future.
There’s no changing your past. Whether you see mostly happiness or something else when you look back, those days are in the book in permanent ink. Obviously, you can’t go back in time and undo your bad days, nor should you want to. Your life has been a combination of both the good and bad events and decisions that either you have chosen or have been put upon you.
When you look back on your path, if you choose to focus on only the bad parts or only the parts that made you happy, you’re overlooking half of the story of you. You’re seeing an erratic pattern of random events that don’t add up to a complete picture.
However, when you look back and see how the good and bad stepping stones together define a clear path to where you are today, you can understand how each one has been an opportunity to grow and learn.
Being grateful for the whole path — good and bad, happy and sad — as the sum of your life means you’ve fully acknowledged your role in both your past successes and mistakes.
I think for you to feel grateful in the moment, your head and your heart need to be in agreement. For that, you may need to take an inventory of what you have vs. what you need — i.e. count your blessings. The way I see it, here are some must haves:
- Health. You may be waging a major battle for your health, but like my mom always said, you could be in worse condition. Besides, no one is without even a minor health issue. Wherever your health falls within that range, you can be grateful for the good parts, and try not to take a single day for granted. When you feel gratitude for your health, you will work hard to improve the parts of your health that could be better.
- People. You’ve not gotten where you are today without someone who was kind enough to offer advice or support, or to act as a role model or even an adversary, who sparked you to work harder at achieving your goals. When you are grateful for each person who has walked with you on your path, for however long or short of a time that has been, you expand your ability to feel compassion and love for others.
- Security. You can desire to have a bigger, fancier or more expensive house, car, toys, vacations, or whatever, but don’t be ungrateful for the ones you have now. What you have now may be just a stepping stone to bigger dreams, but these give you that perspective to know where you want to go and an idea of the level of work you need to put in to get there.
- Purpose – Everyone wants to be needed and appreciated. You also need to be able to give warmth and value to others. Be grateful for the opportunities you have to share your natural and acquired gifts with others.
You’re here today, which means that every moment you’ve experienced from the time you were born until now has been a gift. Where do you want to go from here?
Do you want to repeat the past or go in a new direction? Both could be great options. Your past will forever guide your next steps. Having gratitude for that evolution can give you a stronger chance at steering your future in the direction you want to go.
Here’s where gratitude can take you:
- Positivity. Gratitude leads to optimism. Optimism is characterized by positive energy and emotions.
- Companionship. People want to be around others who are optimistic and positive. In that regard, gratitude will strengthen your relationships with others.
- Encouragement. When you are grateful for the people who inspire and support you, you let them know what it means for you to have them in your life. In doing this, you are also strengthening their self-esteem by letting them see they’ve made a difference in someone’s life.
- Resilience. Gratitude is like armor in the face of stress and trauma. It helps you be more proactive in developing solutions. And with stronger relationships, you’ll be more likely to lean on close friends and family. All of this helps you move through difficult times faster and easier. This includes stress and trauma from your past, present and future.
- Caring. More than just looking at the bright side of things, when you can maintain gratitude for even negative experiences — you can see them as opportunities to learn and grow.
- Compassion. When you have gratitude, you’re more dedicated to helping others cope with stress and trauma by being positive and empathetic. You are more forgiving.
Think about it some more
I’m just a deep thinker. For insight from educated practitioners, a number of articles I read referenced these experts:
Thank you for spending these moments with me, thinking about life. If you like what you’ve read, I’d love for you to share it. Spread some seeds…