When my mother bought a new lounge suite she was so pleased with the salesman who helped her find just the right one that, much to his surprise, she went back a week later with a chocolate cake. There was laughter and banter and both people felt good about the interaction.
Gratitude isn't only expressed in words. Are the words 'thank you' even needed? In Nepal the nearest equivalent is used only for major obligations such as when someone has saved a life. It is understood that reciprocal actions will cover the day to day matters. The Japanese equivalent of grace before a meal translates as 'I will eat' but the gratitude is very plain in that simple phrase.
Gratitude is an important part of all spiritual traditions. We are taught to say prayers of thanks but a sense of gratitude goes beyond words into feelings of reverence and awe or even simple contentment and you don't need to be part of a formal religion to have an awareness of a 'bigger picture'. Gratitude can help us to be humble and to recognise that we frequently get much more than we deserve. In fact deserving doesn't really come into it.
Gratitude opens the heart and changes the point of view. In dark times it is the antidote to depression which says 'it's hopeless, it will never work' and anxiety which says 'This is terrifying. How will I cope?' Gratitude says there is enough, more than enough, it will be all right.
Taking a moment to be consciously grateful allows us to appreciate and savour the good things that happen. In relationships with others giving something back in words or actions creates connection. It is the social glue of community.
I try to note a few things every day that I can be grateful for. There are so many, from my hot shower in the morning through to the convenience of boiling the kettle for my many cups of tea to the warm bed and interesting book which I can enjoy before turning off the - so helpful! - bedside light. In between come all kinds of gifts - a smile from a stranger in the street, something in my work falling neatly into place, a phone call from someone who cares about me. Pondering a few of these gifts each day gives a sense of well-being.
To stimulate feelings of gratitude try asking yourself questions such as these:
What energized you?
What barrier did you overcome?
What changed you?
What triggered your creativity?
What deepened your spirituality?
What kindness did you experience?
What did others do for you?
What inspired you?
What made you feel good?
10. What difficulty taught you an important lesson?