I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately. Today, I’d like to know what you think.
I’ve been walking like a maniac lately. It’s part of my effort to lose weight. As long as I have the time, I walk to any destination under 3 miles. When I was in San Diego, I had two consecutive days where I walked 40,000 steps.
For the past week, I’ve averaged a little over 20,000 steps per day:
I was talking about my walking addiction over the weekend and a friend responded with this:
Wooo tough guy, I’ll bet that I can beat you!
My competitive juices started flowing and the famous quote from Steve Prefontaine popped into my head:
I was about to say this:
Good luck with that. I could easily do 40,000 every day.
Instead, I caught myself and said this:
That’s wonderful, I hope you do beat me. Your body will be better for it!
And you know, I’m so happy about that I can do 40,000 steps in the first place. As a kid, my legs weren’t right and I had to wear Forrest Gump braces on my legs for two years. Besides being picked on temporarily (beat the crap out of one kid and the rest stop), some told me that I’d have issues with my legs for the rest of my life. At the age of 43, I have no issues with my legs or any other part of my body. I don’t have any aches and pains.
I recently lost a lot of weight and now weigh the same as I did in college (first time in two decades). My blood pressure went from 130/80 (August) to 115/68.
I’m so thankful for my health.
The Happy Philosopher
Gratitude is the foundation of my happiness. It is a skill which is like no other. If it were a drug it would probably be illegal because of how good it makes you feel. Gratitude is the soil in which happiness grows.
Every moment we exist is a gift. Every moment is of infinite value. Having constant gratitude for each emerging moment is probably one definition of enlightenment, but this is easier said than done. When we are stuck in traffic or the anesthesiologist got our sedation a little too light during our colonoscopy gratitude is probably not at the top of our mind.
Much of the time though, we are simply not grateful enough for what we have. We take things for granted, and as a result we leave happiness on the table. I know this sounds kind of woo woo, but you really need to think of life this way. Every moment you do not have gratitude you are sacrificing your happiness. It is the equivalent of paying more income tax than you need to or leaving your windows open all summer with the air conditioning running.
Whatever your situation right now, you can instantly feel better by reframing and having gratitude. I’ve done this exercise so many times throughout my life and I’m still amazed at how well it works. Here is an example.
I’ve thought a lot about this post since the Happy Philosopher wrote it. I always considered myself a grateful person. I’m gracious when someone does something nice for me. I send thank you notes. I go out of my way to be thankful for all that is good in my life.
But, I was still missing something…
With What Lens Do You Choose To View Life?
See that heading? Read it again and tell me what the most important word in it is. I think that it’s this one:
Our level of happiness is largely set by genetics (50% according to this guy). However, another 40% is in your control. So, you determine 40% of your happiness. This is huuuuuuge!
Out of that 40%, I’ve found that much of what sets my state is how I choose to react to what life throws my way. Gratitude is a way to deal with the good and more importantly, the bad. If you can be thankful, even in dark times, you’re going to be a better person for it.
And this is what I was missing. I was always grateful for the good stuff, but finding gratitude in the darkness is much more powerful. It’s also more difficult, but incredibly worthwhile.
And this is how I’ve been trying to set my mind. When negative thoughts creep in, I try to catch them and hurl them out. Here are some recent examples:
On Saturday, our oven started having issues in the middle of cooking pizzas for our younger child’s birthday party:
This sucks! I hate you oven!!
No problem. We were able to make the pizzas, so the party went off OK. Even if the oven had totally failed, we could have picked up the phone and had food delivered in 30 minutes. Also, I’m thankful that the oven part will cost me only $25 and 60 minutes of time to fix (thanks YouTube!).
My blog migration did not go well last week. I moved to another host and the response time was much slower. I had no choice but to migrate back on Sunday:
This sucks! I hate you new hosting company!!!
This is a pain in the ass, but I can just point the DNS back over to the old hosting company and be back in business in a couple hours. I’m thankful that I have at least three regular readers in the first place.
Of course, I also have the biggest, one-size, catch-all:
Gratitude changes the filter that we use to experience life. It’s a tool that allows us to reframe any situation. Try it the next time life throws you a ball of dung.
And if you still don’t believe me, consider examples of happy people from your own life. Here are a couple that I know (and who you’re probably familiar with too) that epitomize gratitude:
Frugalwoods: Do you know why Frugalwoods is such a great blog? Liz is an excellent writer, one of the best. But what really sets her apart is that the underlying current in her writing is gratitude. While the Frugalwoods live a fairy tale life in bucolic Vermont, Liz’s gracious writing is what makes it special.
Mad Fientist: The Mad Fientist has a phrase which always makes me smile. It’s this:
He’ll say this when sampling a good beer or when out for a walk on a bright day. When Mrs. 1500 and I spent time with him in Edinburgh, one day I kept track of how many soooo gooods came out of his mouth. I got up to 11 and stopped counting. (Mrs. 1500 note: MadFI says this all the time, but I’m sure Mr. 1500 ‘stopped counting’ because we were drinking large quantities of high-octane Belgian beer.)
The Happy Philosopher: I know, I already mentioned him, but he’s the one who set me on this course, so he deserves another mention. I met HP for the first time at a conference and despite severe back pain, he was smiling almost perpetually.
How about you? Are you a happy or sad person? Have you experimented with gratitude? Has it helped you? Have you ever fixed an oven?*
* (Mrs. 1500’s desperate plea: Seriously, do you know how to fix an oven? It’s the weirdest thing. Every time I open the door, the heat-producing part of the oven stops producing heat. The display that tells you the inside temp then gets stuck wherever it was. It was stuck at 370 for about 15 minutes during the party. Mr. 1500 saved the day by suggesting I turn it off and back on again, which I had to do every time I opened the oven. If you know what this is, please ping me. I’ll send you a very rare, custom t-shirt if you can diagnose and help us fix this issue.)
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