Selfish Reasons for Gratitude
It has become popular lately to have “An attitude of gratitude.” But why should you? What is the benefit for you exactly? What if it feels to you that there’s nothing to be grateful for?
So maybe you understand my frame of mind, I am very skeptical of those “Feel good” messages like “Smile, it looks good on you” and “Count your blessings if you are alive.” In fact it is quite irritating to me, when I pass by some coffee shop and its window throws at me something like “Think positive and positive things will happen.” Usually my first reaction to that is - DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO! Yes I do have authority issues, but don’t you also find it a bit annoying?
A few years back, when I started taking self care more seriously, the topic of gratitude came up. I was doing “positive mind training” (lol I know), and one of the homeworks was to write 100 things we were thankful for - health, family, business, appearance, etc.. I felt strong resistance to do that but as I am a responsible student, I finally sat down and wrote 100 gratitudes down.
While writing them something interesting happened. I started feeling my irritation slowly being replaced with contentment and by the end of the 100 I was feeling energized and almost happy!
EVOLUTION VS HAPPINESS
In the 10 minutes I spent writing those thanks, NOTHING changed in the objective reality. I hadn’t even moved from the chair. Yet my inner reality had gone through a dramatic change and my outlook had transformed. So what happened there exactly?
After spending some time reading about mind and human evolution, this is what I discovered.
Evolutionary success has very little to do with happiness. Natural selection’s primary goal has always been survival of the fittest and reproduction of those fittest. More is better, not happier is better. Look at the cows and chickens today - from an evolutionary perspective, they are a huge success as animal species, there are billions of them alive today. From a happiness perspective, they lead the most miserable lives that could be imagined, confined to little cages on top of each and slaughtered at a young age, a fraction of their natural lifespan. Yet, evolutionary speaking , they are a HUGE success.
Similarly, for more than SIX MILLION years, human species’ primary goal was survival and one of the most essential survival skills was fear and the ability to foresee the worst possible scenarios in the future. Our brain has evolved to be such that if we let it wander, it will immediately start looking for the negatives in life. An idle brain is a very unhappy brain.
Feeling grateful is a cute way of explaining positive reframing of each event. When you are engaged in “counting your blessings,” you teach your brain how to see each situation from a different perspective. A perspective that allows you to see new possibilities and how to react to those possibilities.
You can never ever control things that happen to you - a loss of someone you love, your house exploding, your dog being stolen, your business failing due to pandemic, etc - but you CAN control how you interpret each situation and how you react to it.
Our reality is always a reflection of our inner world. By reframing how you see events in the world, you change your reality to a more positive one. In such a positive reality, one spends less energy worrying, so there is more energy left to create, to build, to enjoy.
THAT realization above released extra energy and increased my ability to be happy and is exactly the reason WHY the attitude of gratitude is so beneficial and recommended.
Do you agree? Let me know your thoughts on gratitude!
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