“It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.” ~David Steindl
One of my favorite things to do is ride the subway. That’s kind of an odd statement, especially if you’ve ever play-enacted a sardine in a can during rush hour, or had the heel of a street performer come within an inch of your face while he’s attempting gymnastics on a moving train car, but let me explain.
I think of the subway as this “in-between place”. There are very few distractions and for that reason it’s one of my favorite places to think. If you sit still (if you are lucky enough to get a seat) and look at all the faces around you, you can see such diversity, so many walks of life that have come together in one place, at least for one moment. It’s a perfect place to practice seeing everyone as one entity. It’s a great place to practice loving everyone and it’s a really great place to practice forgiveness.
A week ago I was riding the subway and I remembered that this Thursday is Thanksgiving. I got to thinking about oneness and gratitude and a wild idea crossed my mind. I was born into a middle class family in suburban Long Island…that wasn’t the wild thought: this was-If we are all one, then I could have been born anywhere as anyone. I could have been born in the slums of India, or the Alaskan wilderness. I could have been French or German or Polynesian. It may seem silly, but if you really think about it, it’s kind of trippy. We all could have been born into completely different situations.
And in that moment I was extremely grateful. I was grateful for my life, my home, my opportunities. If I had been born into any other situation I would find gratitude as well, but I think that too often it’s easy to get caught up in what we don’t have. For that particular moment I was so grateful for what I do have.
It’s almost too easy to focus on what we don’t have and as a result we find ourselves living in an “If, Then” world.
“If I get this job, then I will be happy.”
“If I get this house, then I will be happy.”
“If I lose this weight, then I will be happy.”
One of my favorite authors and the leading expert on self-love, Robert Holden says it best. “Some people chase happiness and some people chose happiness. It all depends on how much time you want to save.”
Isn’t that great!?
It’s so true, and the same goes for gratitude.
Like happiness, gratitude isn’t found outside of us. It doesn’t appear when we get what we think we want. We have to exercise it like a muscle. We have to find it in every day situations…like riding the subway.
Gratitude is a direct path to happiness. I’ll take it one step further and say that gratitude is a direct path to joy.
I realize that the subjects I love to write about are often a bit up in the air, and I am a pretty grounded person, so I always want to leave you with an actionable takeaway that is both grounded and practical.
To cultivate gratitude, there is no better technique than journaling. And you may have heard of writing down 5 things you are grateful for every day. You may even have tried it, but what if I told you that you are doing it wrong?
There is a powerful, proven method that has been found to be extremely effective at cultivating gratitude. To do it, pick one thing you are grateful for. Now, write 5 sentences detailing why you are grateful for that particular thing. As my girl-crush Marie Forleo puts it brilliantly, “the dividends are in the details.”
Just writing 5 things you are grateful for is too vague.
“I’m thankful for my parents.”
When you write WHY you are grateful, you have a much more powerful experience of gratitude.
“I’m thankful for my parents because they always encouraged me to reach for my dreams.”
“They taught me every lesson they thought would help me succeed in life.”
“They loved me even when I was a moody, devil-of-a-teenager.”
“They gave me things that they never had in life.”
“They showed me what a strong, loving 45 year marriage looks like.”
Much more powerful.
So give it a try.
Gratitude is the simplest and the most powerful tool I know to transform your life. Make it a daily practice and watch what happens. I guarantee that the quality of your life will instantly improve, and the best part is that more grateful you are for the things you have, the more things to be grateful for enter your life.
Let me know what you are grateful for in the comments below, and be specific!
Have a safe and very happy Thanksgiving everyone!