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May 15 , 2008

Being Grateful: Becoming Whole


Gratitude – how do we define it? Gratitude is when you feel a strong sense of appreciation for both the tangible and intangible aspects of your life and the world you live in. Coming from the Latin word gratia, for grace, gratitude is an elevated state of mind that is rightly called a state of grace. This book describes how you can dwell in this state of grace, and enjoy the many benefits that stem from it.

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When you live with an attitude of gratitude, you bring your inner world into harmony with your outer world, recognizing that so much of what nourishes and sustains you in life comes from a source beyond yourself. Gratitude makes you whole in the sense of making you feel part of something much bigger than yourself.

The way that you view the world in which you find yourself is always under your control, regardless of how much it might seem others are in control. An optimist sees it one way, a pessimist a quite different way; same situation, two different perceptions.

An attitude of gratitude is an essentially optimistic one in which you are in the daily habit of noticing that there is always something good, something of benefit to be found in any situation. It may not be what you want, but you understand that it is what you need in order to grow into a fuller expression of yourself. The world is providing for your needs, not pandering to your wants.

This providential view of the world, and the appreciation that goes along with it, allows you to mentally connect with something larger than yourself. This could be with the community that you live in, Nature or a Higher Power. By connecting with this external power, you are transcending your egoic self. Going beyond the ego and connecting with a larger reality outside of yourself is the source of your happiness.

Gratitude has long been recognised by religions and philosophy as a desirable practice, but for many, the connection between gratitude and a sense of well-being is not an obvious one. This book seeks to remedy that, showing you how being grateful can lead you to a deeper sense of satisfaction with your life; something which escapes many people in this age of entitlement, where a culture of complaint creates the opposite of gratitude.

This is not to suggest that you should accept second or third-class service without a murmur. You can still point out where deficiencies exist and have them remedied without losing your positive attitude.

The recognition of the power of gratitude by modern Psychology has been a long time coming. Historically, conventional psychology focuses on what is wrong with a person rather than what is right. Today, a growing body of research indicates that people with higher levels of gratitude also experience higher levels of subjective well-being and resilience. In other words, you can be happier and less depressed, even when your circumstances are quite modest because you have learned to notice and appreciate the good that is present in every situation. With the incidence of depression in the developed world at an all-time high, this is good news for anyone who struggles with the black dog of depression.

The practice of gratitude also helps you in a general way to deal more resiliently with the set-backs that life serves up. It can give you a sense of control over how you feel about those events. You cannot always control events or what other people do, but you can control how you react them, choosing to think in positive, life-affirming ways that can lead you to feel strong and purposeful.

Gratitude is an idea that has come full circle. The Roman philosopher Cicero believed that gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others. More recently the positive psychology movement in has come to embrace this idea in the 21st Century.

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