“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.“
—John Milton (1608–1674)
Happiness lives between the twin towers of attitude and gratitude. Attitude and gratitude are not merely human attributes; they transform lives. They are powerful beacons of light that shine a path to patience and humility, which undergird the twin towers. Attitude manifests thoughts and actions that are both positive and negative. A positive attitude is to be grateful for what we have despite our current circumstances, demonstrated by hope, peace, continent, and happiness, but a negative attitude displays fear, despair, mistrust, and unhappiness.
Patience and humility underpin attitude and gratitude. When things go wrong, the situation is ‘what it is.’ We should strive to remain calm and reasoned. A negative attitude will always have adverse outcomes, but a positive attitude can positively change the dynamics that underpin the situation. You may have to postpone an important trip because of the weather but gain an opportunity to catch up on some household projects, to read, or to relish a peaceful time for contemplation. When we accept a situation for ‘what it is,’ it creates internal harmony with self and external harmony with others.
The choice is ours to use the tools that are available to us — spiritual, moral, social, intellectual, and physical (the embodiment of happiness) —to nurture and sustain happiness. We can conjure up the ‘power of small gestures.’ We can begin with open minds and speak positive thoughts into the lives of others — daily. Every morning we rise, we could choose how we want our day to transpire. We could expect clogged roadways, and a frustrating journey along the highway to work, or hope for a better trip than the day before.
We can enter the workplace with a readiness to respond to our work associates with unkind words and be the benefactor of an unhappy work environment, or we can decide to let kind words and high ideals guide our thoughts of the day. Often, the universe blesses us with all of the things that can make us happy. We may be in good health and have a successful career, a husband or wife, and healthy children yet nurture feelings of unhappiness.
One may be a corporate executive, earn a seven-figure income, and be in the top tenth percentile of affluent people in the world. One may live in a suburban neighborhood with one or two children, and drive exotic cars, but fear, anxiety, chronic unhappiness or depression may be overshadowing lives. How could people develop an attitude that can counteract daily challenges? Can people rise above hopelessness that suffocates a blissful experience? People can begin by being thankful for the things in life that we take for granted, but have the most meaning such as a beautiful sunshine, living in a peaceful neighborhood, or a loyal spouse and family members.
GRATITUDE AND HAPPINESS:
Gratitude has reciprocal benefits. When we exercise gratitude, the lives it influences radiate with happiness. The converse, ingratitude, radiates unhappiness. Consider a business partner who benefitted from the success of the enterprise but walks away when the economy takes a downturn, leaving his or her business partner to cope with the financial dilemma. Consider a husband or wife who rises to an executive management position in a corporation and then abandons the spouse because of a perception that he or she does not fit his or her ‘new’ corporate image. This ‘unhappiness reality’ confronts people in the postmodern age in which the aura of a person’s image can dominate the social landscape and change perceptions in the public and private world.
People can demonstrate gratitude for their life’s situation, by practicing the following twenty essential keys to unlocking the ‘doors of gratitude’ that can lead to a happy and healthier life of fulfillment. We can make a conscious effort to practice acts of gratitude daily. We may have to rearrange some parts of our life to engender a spirit of attitude and gratitude, but each door opens to additional doors into the lives of others, as gratitude spreads beyond self to infuse happiness in the lives of others.
TWENTY ESSENTIAL KEYS TO UNLOCKING THE DOORS OF ATTITUDE AND GRATITUDE THAT CAN LEAD TO HAPPINESS:
- Demonstrate love and care for others.
- Be grateful for your work associates.
- Genuinely compliment others.
- Volunteer with a local group.
- Be a good listener to others.
- Be thankful for your health.
- Be grateful for small things.
- Greet others in a friendly manner.
- Be appreciative of your spouse and children.
- Let someone in a hurry go before you.
- Donate regularly to a charity of choice.
- Be grateful for every morning you rise.
- Surprise a friend with a greeting card.
- Maintain loyalty to friends and family.
- Purchase some good reads for friends.
- Let your friends know that you care.
- Pay for the grocery for an elderly neighbor.
- Routinely give to your favorite charity.
- Give a generous tip to a deserving waiter.
- Donate books to the community library.
When we demonstrate these twenty visible acts of gratitude, they spill over into the lives of children as a positive influence on their upbringing. Children then begin to display their actions of gratitude early in their lives. Even the small stuff can make people happy or unhappy. For instance, a visit to the office of one of the many surgeons who care for my health can often include an extended waiting period. I would usually become impatient. During one of those visits, I decided to change my attitude to gratitude for being able to afford the services of the surgeon.
I began to internalize the fact that when the surgeon walks into the room, his radiant personality transforms the room. I reminded myself that the surgeon is the embodiment of positive nurturing. He imparts a sense of youthfulness and rejuvenation through his conversations. I decided to take a journal, magazine, or laptop computer to the waiting room to change the experience. Now a visit to my surgeon is an experience that I wholeheartedly welcome — notwithstanding.
Gratitude is a term that encompasses a greater range of actions that we might contemplate, such as appreciation, thankfulness, and gratefulness. These attributes of gratitude inspire us to perform acts that we might otherwise consider simple acts of kindness and courtesy, but they have far-reaching positive consequences for the betterment of human relations.
Change may call for a commitment to rise above the fear of rejection or failure to make the second or third attempt to obtain a driver’s license or the challenge to overcome academic failure, or as significant as fear of losing one’s employment, fear of getting old, or fear of a catastrophic illness diagnosis. Change may involve radical action and a willingness to do things that we have not done before, or it may require us to make sacrifices that we might not have contemplated.
Some may say that they are too old to change or that their religion and culture may inhibit them from adjusting to a ‘new’ way of life in a different country. As a parent or guardian, we may have to change our schedule to spend more time with our children. We may have to adopt a new attitude, attend a baseball game, meet with coaches, or walk to the neighborhood church, synagogue, temple, or mosque with our children.
Change may mean to rise above pride and express remorse for a wrong, extend forgiveness, seek repentance, and provide restitution. In the end, happiness will reign supreme. This magnitude of change will instill an attitude of hope and happiness in anyone touched by the ‘new’ you, which will become evident by the acts of gratitude.
Everyone should make a list of ten things that there are grateful for (tangibles and intangibles). We would realize that we have taken much for granted in our lives. These items will become a potent force that helps to dispel such powerful emotions as fear and anxiety, as we add additional details to the list daily.
TEN THINGS TO BE THANKFUL FOR:
- For my faith and belief in God
- Having a good wife and children
- Having a peaceful home
- Living in a quiet and friendly neighborhood
- Retirement in good health
- Brothers and sisters that get along well
- Friends that inspire me
- Having family living in tropic islands
- For my ability to write inspirational books
- For my capacity as a conference speaker
Finally, we should take time to remember to add a new item each week as an ongoing reminder of a grateful life and practice the preceding twenty essential keys to unlocking the ‘doors of gratitude’ for others to enter. More importantly, rather than waiting for events like birthdays, Christmas, and Thanksgiving everyday practice is more fulfilling.
Writers, Errol A. and Marjorie G. Gibbs are avid readers, inspired researchers, speakers, and mentors. Their journey, which began with their ‘search for happiness,’ led along paths to Optimum Happiness (OH). OH is a “higher value proposition” for human survival as a viable species than our typical notion of happiness. These same paths await on your ‘journey of discovery.’