“It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy. Every moment is a gift.” – David Steindl-Rast
Does happiness make us grateful, or does gratitude make us happy? Its an emotional and spiritual question of similar nature to the chicken or the egg. There are those who may say that when we are first happy, then we learn to become grateful as a result of happiness.
I would lean in the opposite direction, as would David Steindl-Rast – a Christian Monk who has spent much time studying Buddhism and other Eastern religions, who is the author of this passage quoted in the book of Joy. We are not grateful because we are happy, rather instead we are happy because we are grateful.
I would list gratitude as one of my most important traits to embrace on ones search for happiness, along with compassion and perspective. One of the easiest ways to realize near instant states of elevated happiness and more lasting joy is to be continuously grateful.
Here are a few tips that I have found useful in practicing gratitude:
1. Keep a gratitude journal. Write down 3-5 things every evening that you were grateful for that day. They can be as simple as a compliment received, a good meal, a sunset. Think hard and I am sure you can come up with a few.
2. Meditate: I like to do my gratitude meditations early in the morning, shortly after waking, to help me carry that grateful and happy feeling around throughout my day. I like to sit quietly for 10-15 minutes and think about my life, reminding myself how lucky I am for this life and for all in it. If you need help being grateful for something, imagine your life without it. Don’t like your job? Imagine yourself without it, how would you pay your bills or provide food and shelter for yourself and those who count on you. Angry and resentful at your spouse? Imagine how empty and lonely you would feel if that person were gone.
However you choose to experience it, make sure to cultivate gratitude in your life. The results will lead to greater happiness.