Thoughts for a Thursday: Gratitude


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gratitude and contentment. Ben and I commute to work together (30 minutes to an hour each way, depending on traffic), and we often get into long conversations about life in the car. I tell you what, a long commute is never fun, but it definitely makes it better to share it with someone you love and enjoy talking to! Anyways, we’ve been talking lately about how the current of this age is to never be satisfied. To always want more, to feel like you’ve never accomplished enough, to constantly chase that next thing. To some extent, I think that’s just human nature. But I also think that it's a recent shift with my generation. Am I wrong? I feel like not too long ago, people were more content with what they had…but our generation has been so groomed to dream big and do it all, that “settling” for anything less feels like failure. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to believe in your dreams and to make them happen, but I’d also like to feel more contentment and satisfaction with my life as it is now, rather than always looking forward to tomorrow. So what’s the key?

It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.

There are probably a million things that contribute to feeling satisfied--but today I want to talk about one point in particular that makes a big difference: gratitude. I really like this quote, by David Steindl-Rast: “It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”

I recently read this post on Apartment Therapy, about being positive when it comes to your home. It talked about how when guests come over, so often we’ll immediately launch into apologies for all the things we don’t like about our home--the mess, the unfinished projects, the items that need fixing, etc. And if they say something positive about our place, we laugh it off or dismiss it. We might think this is being humble, but in actuality it’s not very kind to the person paying you the compliment, and it just perpetuates a standard of perfection that no one can actually attain to. Wouldn’t it be so much better to simply say, “Thanks so much! That really means a lot,” when someone pays you a compliment? I think so.

And I think you can apply that same principle to just about anything. If someone tells you that you look beautiful, just say “thank you!” rather than talking about how your shirt is actually two years old, or you have a zit, or you ate a huge dinner and you feel fat, or whatever. I’d like to practice this--being grateful for what I have, appreciating it, and enjoying where I’m at, without thinking about what could be better.

What are your thoughts on this topic?? I’d love to hear how you stay positive in the present. How do you work toward your goals while staying joyful and satisfied in your current situation?

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  1. Posted by Katja on Thursday, February 13th, 2014

    Such a lovely and inspiring post! I am a rather new follower of your blog (far away in Finland), and I like your approach and visuals. About always wanting more...yes, I agree definitely on the point that our generation is almost "brainwashed" with "go for your dream", and always strive for the best. Seems like the only point of life is to achieve things, not simply just enjoy. It is hard to think otherwise, if you have heard the same phrases since childhood. Before, you were just born into a certain role, and now so much is up to you, and what you want to do with your life. No wonder so many are confused.
    I also believe the key word is gratitude, as you said. Things could always be worse. But it is hard sometimes...very hard, to just settle for "be grateful fo what you have right now". I guess it is a life-time practice. I try enjoy the situations when I am feeling most happy - with family, friends and when doing craft projects.
    • Posted by Aileen on Saturday, February 15th, 2014

      Katja--thanks so much for your comment. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts!
  2. Posted by Debbie on Thursday, February 13th, 2014

    I love what you've shared. I think the generational difference is the WEB. A constant bombardment of the world and trends. We didn't have that, BUT the drive and discontentment is inherent in the fallen human race. Only one thing, one person, can fill that basic human need. The quote you shared is very true. Gratefulness makes us joyful. "Always rejoice, unceasingly pray, in everything give thanks"...helps me stay joyful. :)
    • Posted by Aileen on Saturday, February 15th, 2014

      Definitely. The internet, and social media in particular, has made it so easy for us to compare our lives (and stuff) to others. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Debbie!