A Grateful Heart: Melissa and I just returned from a night out at a fine dining establishment. It was our Christmas gift to each other. We prefer to share a lovely meal and make memories instead of giving each other “stuff” (like clothes – YUCK!)
I would normally retire to the couch after such an evening but I was deeply motivated to write this piece. I was inspired by the awful couple at the restaurant with whom Melissa and I had to share the same space.
It was like dining with the grim reaper and his evil minion. If I had known they’d be dining at the table next to us, I would have brought my crucifix and holy water. I’ll come back to these two.
Back drop: Our server (I hate this term) was an amiable young man from Boston who was eager to please his guests. He was also a veteran. I will assume he’s been through hell. He had the unfortunate task of having to deal with these folks seated at the other table.
For them, nothing was right when it came to the food or
service. They had to make some sort of proclamation every time the server came
to their table.
[For the record, I’m not picking on those requiring a gluten free diet. If you have dietary restrictions and can’t eat gluten, that’s understandable. But why did they have to make a spectacle and put someone down? All they had to do was thank him and ask him to take away the bread.]
Nothing was right. Melissa and I were not the only one’s deeply disturbed and simultaneously amused by these people. After all, everyone loves a good freak show. The couple next to them looked as though they were going to blast off. They were shocked by the other couple’s rant.
For the record, the restaurant was quiet and cozy. We had no choice but to hear this couple complain.
I get it. You’re spending your hard-earned money at a restaurant and you have expectations. But what ever happened to gratitude? Nobody wants to zoom out anymore. Have our lives been reduced to a post-game analysis of how we got screwed?
We seem to live in an age where it’s not a “good” day unless one beats the war drum of disappointment. Have dissatisfaction and complaints become daily comforts? A form of personal elevation and distinction? What the hell happened??
I am not immune to having lapses in gratitude. Trust me on this. But there was a time (not too long ago) when I was in a locked psych ward. I had just been released from the emergency room because I overdosed. I was the lucky one. I made it. Some thought I wouldn’t make it. I’ve had three trips to hell and back. I’ve lived in a half-way house.
I can assure you, I don’t complain about bread. In fact, entire villages of Parker House rolls run like hell when they hear I’m in the neighborhood. I will gladly eat the farm-raised salmon with a side of non-organic broccoli. My day won’t be ruined.
All jokes aside. Can we please just stop, be still, breathe, observe the beauty around us, and think about all that we have?
Let’s use every day (not just the holidays) as an opportunity to acknowledge our gratitude. Showing gratitude is a gift to ourselves, to others, and to the universe.
Gratitude lightens our load and enlightens our lives.
Melissa and I have a grateful heart for your readership. We wish you a very happy holiday season and all of the blessings the New Year will offer.
Peace be with you. May you have a grateful heart. ~Ted
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal for a grateful heart. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy. Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness.
2. Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.
3. Ask Yourself Three Questions for a grateful heart. Utilize the meditation technique known as Naikan, which involves reflecting on three questions: “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
4. Learn Prayers of Gratitude. In many spiritual traditions, prayers of gratitude are considered to be the most powerful form of prayer, because through these prayers people recognize the ultimate source of all they are and all they will ever be.
5. Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.
6. Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Often times, the best visual reminders are other people.
7. Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude for a grateful heart. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.
8. Watch your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.
9. Go Through the Motions. If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude.
10. Think Outside the Box for a grateful heart. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must creatively look for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful.