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In life, there are a lot of things we want.
Maybe it’s a new car, a bigger house, a grand vacation, or a job that pays more. But do we ever give thanks for the hard things?
Even in the lowest times of our lives, there will always be something to appreciate. Like anything, gratitude is something we must practice every day. When times are hard, it can be a challenge to be thankful…but gratitude is like a muscle. The more we work it, the stronger it gets.
To help you get started practicing gratitude, here are three surprising things I give thanks for, and you can too.
1. That we Exist
We are part of a larger human family that connects us all. We share a common humanity. And in that common humanity, there is great beauty and kindness. There are gifts everywhere. We’re not just alone floating through life. We’re part of something larger.
There are no strangers—everyone we meet is just another member of this interconnected web of humanity. Even though we are different, we are the same. We share our sufferings and joys with each other. It’s a wondrous thing to be thankful for everyone, even the people who hate us or the ones we’ve never met.
2. Be Grateful for the Hard Things that Made you who you Are
It’s simple to be thankful for the good things in our lives. We naturally give thanks for things like our children or the business we built from the ground up. But it’s not so easy to be grateful for the hard things. Yet, it’s the struggle that shapes us more than any positive experience. Without having to work for it, would we truly appreciate the business we built?
For truly devastating things, it’s difficult to be thankful, but we can be grateful we made it through them. We can give thanks that we survived and that we can share our hard-earned wisdom in a way that benefits others.
For me, I didn’t have much of a mother, and I still am grateful for her. She took me to Italy with her when I was 11. I developed a lifetime love of travel because of her. She wasn’t the mother I wanted, but I wouldn’t exist without her. So I’m grateful that she did exist and that she gave me life. I had to learn to love myself without her help. Who’s to say I would even be me without that struggle?
3. Be Grateful that Things Happen when They Do
We can drive ourselves crazy questioning the timing of things. Why didn’t I do this sooner? Or, what if I had done this at that particular time? A large part of gratitude is acceptance. Things happened as they were meant to happen. I have been practicing Buddhism for over 20 years now. That means that, for most of my life, I wasn’t Buddhist.
Instead of focusing on the time I wasted searching for my spiritual path, I’m grateful that I eventually discovered a spiritual practice that resonates with me. It has become an integral part of my life. Every morning, I sit and meditate. This has brought me peace during tough times.
Another thing that fills me with gratitude is the fact that I had the tenacity and courage to write my book. I could dwell on when I wrote it and question why I waited until I was in my 70s, but I choose instead to just be thankful that I did.
Gratitude isn’t instinctual. It’s something that we must cultivate. At first thought, it seems crazy to give thanks for something as simple as existing, or for the most horrible days of our lives. But when we only give thanks for the easy things, we’re looking at the world through a narrow lens. By practicing gratitude for the good and the bad, we’re embracing life in all its complexity. The more we practice gratitude, the more surprising things we’ll find to appreciate.
What are some of the things you are grateful for in your life? Leave your comments and thoughts below. I’d love to hear them!