Gratitude word cloud

An Attitude of Gratitude Brings Us Joy 

In my last several blogs I have invited my readers to dive into the subject of joy: what it is and what fosters it. My inspiration has been The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu who deeply explore the subject of joy and provide many enlightening perspectives. It is a very empowering book!

Towards the end of the book the two friends exchange ideas about the importance of gratitude as a key element in a journey to find joy. “Gratitude is the recognition of all that holds us in the web of life and all that has made it possible to have the life that we have in that moment that we are experiencing. Thanksgiving is a natural response to life and may be the only way to save you. Both Christian and Buddhist traditions, perhaps all spiritual traditions, recognize the importance of what is. It allows us to shift our perspective… towards all we have been given and all that we have. It moves us away from the narrow-minded focus on fault and lack and to the wider perspective of benefit and abundance.”

It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy. Every moment is a gift. There is no certainty that you will have another moment, with all the opportunity that it contains. The gift within every gift is the opportunity it offers us”

“Gratitude means embracing reality. It means moving from counting your burdens to counting your blessings… both as an antidote and a recipe for appreciating our own lives… In Buddhism, one can be grateful even for one’s enemies,’ our most precious spiritual teachers,’ as they are often called, because they help us develop our spiritual practice to cultivate equanimity even in the face of adversity.”

Gratitude is both an attitude and a set of behaviors. The Oxford Dictionary defines gratitude as, “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”  For some it is an occasional response to someone’s behavior and for others it is a way of life, a constant openness to finding opportunities to be appreciative of the many blessings that surround us. 

Gratitude can be an individual approach to life or a more collective belief system within a group, be it a school, a neighborhood, a community, an organization and even our whole nation.

As we celebrate Memorial Day and Fourth of July and any other holidays that commemorate those in the military who sacrificed their lives to promote our democracy, we can pause to focus on our deep gratitude for their contributions to both society and our very lives.

There are songs with the theme of gratitude. The Bible also provides many admonitions for us to be grateful.  For example, Psalm 100:4: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”  and 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

There are celebrities who are strong advocates for gratitude. Michael J Fox, a longtime television and movie star who has suffered for many years from Parkinson’s disease in an interview in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of the AARP magazine, says that “gratitude makes optimism sustainable…You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You’ve got to behave in a way that promotes that.”  He adds, “And if you don’t think you have anything to be grateful for, keep looking. Because you don’t just receive optimism. You can’t wait for things to be great and then be grateful for that. You’ve got to behave in a way that promotes that.”

There is a very strong connection between gratitude and optimism. According to an article Psychology Today, gratitude is the antidote for toxic things that come into our lives. Simply put, gratitude fosters optimism, which strengthens hope. [Choosing Gratitude and Optimism | Psychology Today]

The Book of Joy also noted, “Scientists have long known that our brains have evolved with a negative bias. It was no doubt advantageous for our survival to focus on what was wrong or dangerous. Gratitude cuts across this default mode of the mind. It allows us to see what is good and right and not just what is bad and wrong.”

It was further noted in the book, “When you’re grateful you are not fearful, and when you are not fearful, you are not violent. When you’re grateful, you act out of a sense of enough not out of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people and are respectful to all people. A grateful world is a world of joyful people. Grateful people are joyful.… When we recognize all we have been given, it is our natural response to want to care for and give to others.”

Clearly, gratitude along with optimism are very strong forces in a journey to discover ways to experience joy. The good news is that if we are not automatically grateful or optimistic, we can become intentional about developing these traits.

Invitation for Reflection

  1. What popped up for you in terms of thoughts, feelings, sensations, beliefs or memories as you read about gratitude?
  2. Can you remember times when you were very grateful for something or someone? Think about your story of this and what contributed to that gratitude.
  3. If you pause for a few minutes and create an inventory of things in your life for which you can feel grateful, how many items can you generate? Perhaps over the next few hours you can take a mental survey of all the people and things around you for which you can feel grateful and embrace the warmth of those feelings. Then appreciate that this in turn can lead you to experiencing joy.


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