Gratitude… What does it mean for me?
Is it just a polite nicety or is it a sincere feeling?
How often do I truly feel appreciation? Do I take everything for granted? Do I know how to be thankful? Do I value what life and people give me? Why is it difficult for me to sincerely receive gratitude? Who desires appreciation more – the one who gives it or the one who receives it?
Such questions arose as I had not yet discovered the beautiful feelings surrounding my sense of gratitude. This article is devoted to answering them.
What do I know about gratitude?
From a pragmatic’s point of view, it is beneficial to be thankful as relationships with people become pleasant and stable. A person who feels gratitude stops concentrating on oneself and starts paying attention to others.
- Gratitude supports, inspires and shows recognition and respect for other people’s efforts.
- Sincere gratitude brings joy.
- It’s easy to be thankful when you unexpectedly receive something good.
- One can express appreciation through words, actions, gifts or attitude.
- One can be thankful for a long time or forget in an hour.
- If one isn’t thankful for kindness, his conscience torments him…the person feels a stone in his gut.
- Sometimes, one begins to feel appreciation only after realizing the true value of what has been lost or after coming to understand the actual effort put forth by other people upon personally experiencing the same task or situation.
- In order to be capable of feeling appreciation, a person should realize and feel the value of what she received.
- When a person is thankful for something that was done willingly, selflessly and by choice, the sense of appreciation increases on both sides.
The one who doesn’t like to ask, doesn’t like to be obliged, meaning, he or she is afraid to be grateful.
Gratitude is a feeling
Gratitude as a sincere feeling is hard to separate from love. Otherwise, it is something like a trade for a favour but not a feeling, resulting in an emotional outburst that quickly fades.
Gratitude filled with love is a pure, joyful feeling that arises between people who are equal among themselves. Their social status may be different but sincere gratitude is passed human-to-human, not status-to-status. Otherwise, appreciation is simply an attribute of patronage or recognition of power over oneself.
What is the difference between acknowledgement and gratitude? Acknowledgment is recognition of the importance of what was done and is concerned with a sense of duty for what was received. Gratitude conveys a deep, inner-feeling experience, recognizing the value of something without reason or in response to kindness. One feels such gratitude accompanied by unconditional love.
It is interesting that a strength of these two feelings, gratitude and love, is proven by scientific research.
Feelings and emotions of a person are fundamentally different from each other. Feelings are always deep, calm, and peaceful; they arise inside and are followed by a sense of completion and joyful quiet. Emotions are often loud, temporary, caused by external circumstances and transform from negative into positive and then back. After the impassioned emotional experience, one feels empty and tired as a result of effort spent producing biochemical agents that cause emotional flashes.
It’s impossible to be angry when one is thankful. And vice versa: a person cannot feel gratitude in the same moment that he is furious. Neither can sincere appreciation be connected with emotions of euphoria. This is because during times of emotional upheaval, a human’s consciousness is focused only on his own person. Experiencing a true feeling of gratitude means paying attention to accomplishments of others and to world harmony.
When a person calms their emotions, they naturally start to perceive reality more holistically, finding contentment and satisfaction with what one has. In this case, the heart opens to a feeling of gratitude which pours out with a smooth, gracious flow.
Gratitude is healing
Due to the experience of psychologists, we can talk about the strong therapeutic effect of being thankful. Gratitude for life lessons and human kindness heals mental stress and worry and harmonizes a person’s condition, leading to a positive, resilient state that promotes the person’s development. There is a method called a “Diary of Appreciation” where every evening a person makes notes about everything she is thankful for: such as happiness, vitality and peace along with personal discoveries, meetings, lessons and experience. This “Diary of Appreciation” can become part of a greater practice of beginning and ending the day with a sense of gratitude and love for each and every gift one values in their life.
In this process, a man creates and sustains a positive way of thinking, instilling a feeling of gratitude within his inner character. As a result, this man experiences an improvement of his feelings, world outlook and personal relationships in his family, at a job and with neighbors. A person who concentrates their attention on the positive side of life becomes less exposed to stress and more effectively finds solutions for task challenges because this person more often sees these situations as a resource for one’s development.
A positive inner spirit also keeps a human young. Such conclusions were made by scientists who received the Nobel Prize in the 1990s. In the human body, the life of each cell ends with the formation of new cells thanks to energy that is released after dissolution of the dying cell’s core. If energy of negative emotions’ dominates in a person, DNA gives a command to start the process of cellular deterioration. Thus this negative energy becomes a source of cellular disease. When a person makes a choice between positive and negative thoughts and emotions, they are literally choosing between their life and their death.
Neuropsychologist, PhD Roger Walsh says:
Gratitude gives lots of benefits. It eliminates negative emotions – underneath her light melts anger and jealousy, evaporates fear and wariness. Gratitude destroys obstacles on the way to love.
Long before the psychological science developed, different religions had recommended starting the day with ‘gratitude to God’ for good reason. It purifies the person’s interior, developing such noble sentiments as honor and human dignity. Gratitude is a person’s sole wealth. Various research projects by different philosophers, psychologists and scientists are dedicated to the study of appreciation. More information is available in the article “The Phenomenon of Gratitude” by A. Khanova.
15. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
16. Rejoice always.
17. Pray without ceasing.
18. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
19. Do not quench the Spirit.
20. Do not despise prophecies.
21. But test everything; hold fast what is good.
22. Abstain from every form of evil.
Gratitude is particularly important in traditions and religions of all nations.
The first thing one should be thankful for is Life, because without it, nothing has importance. Being alive, the human has a possibility to do much. One of the most important meanings of human’s life is to attain love. But where can a person get love? The human has simply to accept love from God, with gratitude in one’s heart. Then love also fills one’s life.
It is impossible to demand or grab love. This is true for God’s love even more so. Love is free. It is available for people who are able to accept it with humility and gratitude, who are able to become a source of love. Appreciation is a key to Love. Love is a key to a human’s unity with God, to spiritual transformation. (Salvation, Nirvana, Moksha, Liberation, Satori, integration with Dao).
In Christianity, for example, the attainment of the supreme spiritual state is called “Blessing”, and it is regarded as a universal value, the ultimate frontier of the human aspiration, the road to which involves goodness as the personal property of the Holy Spirit.
The main ceremony of Christian worship is communion or “Eucharist”, so named by the Greek for “gratitude”. Early Christian manuscripts call this ceremony “healing of immortality” and “cure of living”. This sacrament symbolizes our connection or unity with God, appreciation for and inclusion to God, to God’s love. Early Christians observed thanksgiving to God along with conducting Love suppers called “agape”.
Relations between man and God are based solely on the deepest, personal feelings of the person from the contact with the spiritual world, his sincere Love and gratitude to God. These true deepest feelings of man to God are the real and the only values from man that can be perceived by that world. These relationships with the spiritual world take place without any intermediaries.
In Islam such characteristic as Gratitude is inherent to Allah. People giving thanks are rewarded by His Grace:
Why should Allah deal chastisement to you if you are grateful [to Him] and believe [in Him]? Allah is All-Appreciative, All-Knowing.
Allah Itself told in the Koran about people giving thanks:
Also call to mind when your Lord proclaimed: “If you give thanks,11 I will certainly grant you more.
The mercy of Allah for a person is the supreme value that lies beyond terrestrial life. There are three types of gratitude in Islam: gratitude by means of a tongue, by means of heart and by all your human being. All these types are confirmed by the person’s spiritual and moral actions that are unified with the Will of Allah.
There is no aim in your life except joy and gratitude.
The Gautama Buddha
There is a “Love and Gratitude” meditation that helps a person in his spiritual self-improvement. It is a technique of the ancient spiritual “Lotus Flower” practice that helped Buddha to reach a state of spiritual liberation and enlightenment.
Gratitude to God
The power of love and gratitude frees a person’s vital energies that were confined by negative programs. There appears a sense of value, lightness and joy of living. I felt it the moment I managed to go within and sincerely say: “Thank you God, for giving me the chance to experience good and evil, for every moment of life. Thank you God, that You are always with me.”
Every person chooses each experience thanks to our freedom of choice given to us by God. This is a valuable benefit of life: personally recognizing ourselves within the world through life’s varied situations creates a possibility to grow and become wiser. Personal experience allows us to make a conscious choice and establishes us in it. In this way, a human’s spiritual nature increases, becomes stronger and gains freedom. Wisdom is a gift of heaven, it is a spiritual insight in the process of the person’s spiritual growth, it is a gift with the help of which a human reaches the highest state of knowledge, understanding and enlightenment.
Spiritual freedom is a space of love. For a person that realizes this highest value within oneself, appreciation is a natural answer to any life experience. Gratitude is a natural state of a person fulfilled with the deepest feelings coming from an ongoing dialogue with God. A wise man is always thankful to God.
My research into gratitude revealed more than I expected. The next step in self-development for me is a deeper perception of gratitude and its power. Instead of judging everything I see, I’m cultivating my ability to be thankful for all that exists around me. Such fulfilment of my interior inspires me to create my best in life.
I am thankful to all the people whose work helped me to understand deeper gratitude. I am thankful for those lessons in my life that made me look for answers. I am thankful to you, dear readers, because your invisible presence was good support for me in this research.
Written by Olga, Kharkov