Practising Gratitude: A Path to Contentment

Photo: johnelamper

Are you grateful?

Do you think that’s too sweeping a question? Maybe you prefer to give me a qualified response. Something like this: “Well, I’m grateful for my health, but I’m hacked off about my boss. My kids are doing ok at school, but they’re getting a bit lippy. The wife and I get on alright, but not much is happening in bed.” “Yes, but…”, “Yes, but…”, “Yes, but….”


Do you think that someone who answers like this is happy and content?


I once read some interesting research on how couples feel about their relationship: If people experience as many good moments together as they have bad moments, they think that their relationship is in trouble. People only experience their relationship as happy if they have five good experiences to every bad encounter!


That’s interesting, isn’t it? It means that bad moments have much more impact on us than good ones–especially if we take them for granted.


Let’s take some liberty with these findings and transfer them to the problem of gratitude. This would mean that in order to feel content, we would need to find five things to be grateful for, for every one thing we dislike about our life.


Gratitude is a muscle that needs regular exercise.


Otherwise that emotional ‘muscle’ atrophies, and we become angry and bitter instead of happy and content.


Here’s a very simple way to do gratitude ‘push-ups’: At night, just before you go to sleep, go back through the day and make a list in your mind of all the things you can be grateful for.

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  1. Shona says:

    It wasn’t until I started a job logging over 700 incident reports a month for mental and older persons health that I realised just how much I have to be grateful for. At the end of each day of entering so many episodes of distress and suffering that these people had gone through, I would leave the office feeling so blessed, so fortunate to have my life and family and the freedom from intense mental suffering that we enjoy. I also found simply being truly grateful for the food on my plate using the same ritual we use at sesshin, seemed to spill over into other areas of my life. With our clean air, safe water and beautiful environment, we life a life, many others in the world can only dream of and I need to remind myself of that everyday.

  2. Trent M. says:

    I try to be gracious, but sometimes, that “me-tape” that is constantly playing is so distracting that I don’t take the time to appreciate everything, and often take things for granted. This is definitely something else I will attempt to change.
    I love your mention on a couple’s happiness.
    My parents have a terrible marriage.
    As far as relationships in general go, my dad and I not only do not share a good relationship, it is a bad one.
    I often take on my parents marrital status on as a problem of mine because I feel sorry for my mom and obviously want my parents to be happy with each other.
    They certainly love each other and would never divorce, but they have their issues. My dad lives a stressed life and most definitely plays his “me-tape” ALWAYS. He’s selfish in himself and with his time, spending non of it with my family and never showing ANY kind of affection to my mom. She actually has to ask him to hug or kiss her, which is just sad.
    While he has many flaws and problems, he’s very narrow-minded and will probably never change. But sharing this whith my mom and practicing this myself will be good, focusing on all of the good and ignoring the flaws we pay more attention to.
    Gratitude “Push-Ups” sounds to be a great method. I’ll definitely begin making this a normal ritual in my life.

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