Updated: Aug 14, 2019
How do you feel when you are grateful about anything? Do you have a sentiment of being fulfilled? Do you almost automatically put a smile in your face? I bet many of you have had that amazing experience of feeling completely grateful not for one but for many things that you have received in your life, however, nowadays we don’t even stop to think about the power of that word, the amazing peace and space that is created once we feel it.
We seem to be closing the circle for learning, with so many things that have existed for centuries and should have passed along to all generations, instead of the toxic emotions that are continually being spread all over the world. But let’s assume for own mental health that this is the way it had to be so we could open our eyes to what has been there in front of us the whole time.
More than the meaning of the word, I think we all can relate to the feeling of seeing a beautiful landscape, a love scene, a compassionate story, a expression of nature of any kind of animal that protects or shows a deep care for another species or one of its own kind and in every case we all have felt a profound feeling of wholeness, of having it all, of surrendering to the moment, of simply creating a space inside of us that immediately generates a sense of sharing and frequently triggers our deepest emotions just as when we are children and we are amazed by something in nature or something new for us.
Well, this feeling of gratitude is so powerful that now it is being used as clinical tool to heal many mental illnesses, Why does this simple sentiment or action can have such a powerful impact in our lives?
Let’s begin by deconstructing a map of a mental illness, broadly speaking and not being specific on what kind, many of the mental diseases which are not due to a chemical or physiological deficiency, are caused by one common characteristic, the self-centered or egotistical idea that we have to be pleased, understood, important, noticed and probably the best at what we do.
More than ever, mental illnesses are being triggered by the stupid notion and demands of a high productive society which in the path to make everyone productive and “highly effective” you have to possess certain type of assets, achievements, material standards and of course a “perfectly fake/constructed” personality that matches a stereotype. Consequently with this, people constantly look for comfort, support or approval outside creating a codependent personality with the external rewards, and once you have get to the point where you meet most of the checklist created by society …then you realize you’re still not at peace, happy or fulfilled and then you need more.
If we analyze this “short” toxic cycle created by society to squeeze all of your inner attention and of course all of your material attention to any kind of service that offers you the promise to make you a “role model” for others, an “influencer” or just a “famous personality” we can clearly see that nowhere in this loop you will find a space to be grateful, a space to be authentic or a hint to go within as everything is obsessively focused on become that “model”.
Hence, we have to be very careful to not fall in the trap of any marketing evil advertisement that wants to sell you the “one premise” that after you finish their seminar, course or consume their product ..then you will be that person that you’ve always wanted.
The first step towards looking for more peace, more inner satisfaction and fulfillment is born with being grateful for what you already are, what you already have, and be more anchored to the present moment instead of being waiting from something outside to come to you and change the way you feel. Because when you’re eagerly and desperately looking for “that thing” or “that person” to happen or to show up in your life ..is when you’re more prone to fall in a toxic cycle where you are just going to be empty, to be anxious and probably to be depressed.
As a result, you will also be more prone to engage in social media looking for a distraction, that in those moments will not exactly be a distraction, but it will be more a threat for you as you will most likely start comparing yourself and falling more profound than before in that cycle of toxicity.
So, What is the help of being Grateful to all these kind of toxic external cycles?
For instance, when you’re grateful, you’re immediately separated from your ego nature, you’re more focused on appreciating whatever you’re grateful for and usually you’re full of positive emotions, which start to turn on a cascade of emotion substances, mentioned before such as serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin and many other powerful chemicals that not only change your mood but also increase your mental clarity to see many things that you were not seeing before experiencing that sentiment, additionally it will balance many aspects of your internal homeostasis when you maintain that sentiment or feeling for more time.
Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting positive effects in a person’s life. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function, promote happiness and well-being, and spur acts of helpfulness, generosity, and cooperation. Additionally, gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders. Whether it stems from the acceptance of another’s kindness, an appreciation for the majesty of nature, or a recognition of the gifts in one’s own life, gratitude enhances nearly all spheres of human experience. Some of the best moments in life are those in which we sense we have been the beneficiary of goodness freely and generously bestowed onto us (1).
Gratitude has a dual meaning: a worldly one and a transcendent one. In its worldly sense, gratitude is a feeling that occurs in interpersonal exchanges when one person acknowledges receiving a valuable benefit from another. Gratitude is a cognitive-affective state that is typically associated with the perception that one has received a personal benefit that was not intentionally sought after, deserved, or earned but rather because of the good intentions of another person (1).
If we analyze this paragraph in more depth, we can clearly see why gratitude heals so many aspects of our internal functions, when we are born and we received care, attention, love, even without noticing, as part of our early development, we experience a sense of satisfaction, fullness, and probably since that stage without even knowing what is that sensation we are grateful for what we just received. As a result usually a baby that has received all those attentions frequently starts drawing a smile, her/his mood changes, and feels completely at peace, having also the will to interact, play and have more contact with other people around her/him.
As we grow up and in every different stage of our development wherever we experience an unexpected gift, attention or simply a kind word towards us, we just simply experience a satisfaction feeling, that goes beyond the ego and it almost immediately have a feeling of contact, of returning something for the gift even when we are not obliged to do it, that internal feeling transforms our homeostasis towards accepting others, being more open and also experience a sensation of safety.
That’s exactly what we want to trigger during a mental illness, independently of its type, when we open ourselves to receive, to give, to interact more, to help there’s no space for negative emotions, no space for self-pity, no space for any kind of painful past experiences, because in those moments were full of positive emotions. This probably will sound as a gross comparison but the sensation you have when you’re completely and sincerely grateful for something is exactly the same as the one you feel after eating a pretty abundant and delicious meal, you are no longer able to imagine anything more satisfactory than what you just have and feel a sensation of fullness.
This feelings, the emotions raised by gratitude and of course the thoughts that you’re generating if they’re stimulated frequently designing a habit of journaling, recording yourself, or simply expressing your gratitude out loud, can become a very powerful therapeutic intervention which has lure the scientific public to pay more attention to this kind of “spiritual” practice and use it to heal people, mainly from mental disturbances, but now is widely used to be healed from many other conditions.
“In this attitude people recognize that they are connected to each other in a mysterious and miraculous way that is not fully determined by physical forces, but is part of a wider, or transcendent context” (1)
— Streng, 1989.
True gratefulness rejoices in the other. Its ultimate goal is to reflect back the goodness that one has received by creatively seeking opportunities for giving. The motivation for doing so resides in the grateful appreciation that one has lived by the grace of others. In this sense, the spirituality of gratitude is opposed to a self-serving belief that one deserves or is entitled to the blessings that he or she enjoys (1).
If we carefully analyze what is stated by the quote and paragraph above, we can evidently see that the power of gratitude comes from a more powerful spiritual force that bounds every human being on earth, it is the source energy from which we are all created, whether we’re humans, animals, insects, plants any living organism in the end is made of that energy and when we recognize that fact we immediately become compassionate for all other living organisms, we’re empathic, we’re less self-centered and in addition to all those beautiful set of feelings we also are brought to live in the moment, enjoying it and simply placed in a present time.
Living in a present time, creating that bond with other human beings and living organisms is what every one of us needs to be able to heal, to be able to connect with your inner self, to be able to navigate through hardships or pain or any other difficulty that we might find along the path of our lives.
When we set the stage on what we just received, in what we already have, in all the blessings that we can enjoy, any past painful experience goes to the background and it just loses any power over you, is starts to be dissolved by your new sense of fulfillment, clarity, empathy, and compassion to help other. There’s simply no room for negative emotions anymore.
“Contrast” is an integral aspect of the healing effects; contrast also often sets the stage for the experience of gratitude. Painfulness is often followed by the redemption of healing. Affliction or suffering are redeemed by the recognition of goodness received, accompanied by powerful feelings of relief and gratitude. Contrasting the present with negative times in the past can increase feelings of happiness and enhance one’s overall sense of well-being. One’s current state is constantly being compared with what has been experienced in the past or what one desired to have happen (1).
Taking into account what has been demonstrated by research we can clearly see that the inevitable action of comparing your past circumstances, when they are painful and seeing the things that you still have or you can still do through the process of gratitude increases your motivation, your emotional states towards seeing and perceiving a much better future, you gain perspective and consequently you become a better version of any past version that was just installed in egoistic behavior and self-centered actions.
In addition to that when you have the feeling of giving and you start acting on it, you create a loop of confidence, trust, empathy and compassion that feeds from all the positive feelings triggered in others through your help, through your journey which eventually becomes the most successful way to impulse your passion for live, for what you do and for simply being who you are without the component of the ego.
Gratitude is also under appreciated in a culture and society where the promotion of immediate rewards has been so installed, programmed and even worshiped. We are living a transition in every aspect of our lives that promotes getting immediate results, where we don’t cultivate patience, where we are often looking for the next thing to comply with what others expect from us.
Ironically this is just like when dogs keep chasing their own tail and when they finally bite it, it hurts them and they lose every satisfaction for doing it. In humans, we are always chasing the next promotion, house, car, gadget, vacations, etc..and when we finally get it or have it, we don’t even have space for Gratitude or feeling satisfaction, consequentially creating a frustration loop that leads us to generate negative emotions and discourages us from finding meaning in what we are doing, hence living just in automatic pilot.
How can Gratitude Impact your Financial Wellness and Re-direct your Purpose?
For a world where are pretty much all the time living in a constant treadmill, where time seems to be shorter, where the span of attention has been reduced to a ridiculous amount of seconds and the pressure to live as an independent adult, get a degree, buy a house, get married, have children and …just pass this anxiety to your children to do the same.
Gratitude makes an spectacular appearance to allow space to generate patience, to savor moments, to focus more on the journey than results or material wealth, and by allowing all those traits to your life you create a circle of abundance that in the end will lead you to analyze more what you want from your life, will give you more meaning to what you do and these inner states will align you with your true inner self, your inner power and feed you from your inner source.
The propensity of the human mind to overly discount the value of future rewards is well established. This phenomenon, known as temporal discounting, has an adaptive basis: Future gains generally hold less utility than do immediate gains of equivalent value (2).
Successful social living for humans frequently requires the acceptance of short-term costs in exchange for future capital. The benefits derived from cooperation and trust, for example, require one to accept the immediate costs of providing support to another in return for the longer-term gains associated with a lasting relationship characterized by continued exchange (2).
Unlike global positive or negative affect, discrete emotions (e.g., gratitude, sadness) correspond to specific challenges and, therefore, shape subsequent decisions and behaviors in accord with their respective functional goals (2).
The question at hand, therefore, centers on which discrete emotional state could potentially reduce impatience. On the basis of theoretical considerations and a growing body of behavioral evidence, we believe that the emotion gratitude is a likely candidate. Both classical (Smith, 1790/1976) and modern (Frank, 1988) economic theorists have suggested that socially oriented emotions such as gratitude might play a role in inhibiting decisions favoring immediate gratification. Within evolutionary biology, a similar view has emerged. Trivers (1971) argued that gratitude might be a proximate motivator of reciprocal altruism, and Nowak and Roch (2007) suggested that it is linked to indirect upstream reciprocity. Both phenomena require individuals to accept short-term costs in resources (e.g., time, money, physical effort) in an effort to access future gains (2).
These research supports what we discussed previously about the effects of gratitude, however now we are seeing the effects in another context of our lives, which is our financial wellness and allowing to create an abundance mindset instead of focusing on a lacking vision where we are always feeling a void to fill.
When we have a feeling of gratitude for let’s say every little step we are doing towards any kind of goal that requires a more long term platform to be achieved, we will be able to generate space to feel fulfilled, to connect with our inner intention, to generate connection with others and as previously discussed this chain of events will transform our feelings into a giving attitude that now is aligned with the true power of the universe, thus generating more momentum, material wealth and the constant feeling of being abundant.
This cycle can be repeated every time you decide to focus on being grateful for each of the “little” efforts you’re doing, for each of the steps you’re getting closer to the main goal. This kind of mindset also contributes for your patience, your attention on your journey and it strengthens the meaning of your purpose in life, which will for sure make you feel happier and satisfied with what you’re doing in your life.
In summary, gratitude opens up new inner pathways, opens your heart to receiving, connects you with the energy that we all share, generates compassion, allow space in your mind to influence your purpose, to enjoy, to savor your moments as they are happening, sets you in present and just if you needed more the source to your wealth and abundance mindset lays on being to appreciate what you have, being able to feel fulfilled and cut out the mindset of lack in your life.
Thus, if you want to really balance your inner emotions and align to more powerful energy that you possess in your true and inner self …start being grateful for what you are, what you have, what you have achieved, for every person that is around you and had an impact in your life, and basically for having now, at this moment, today …the opportunity to be alive and enjoying what life is ready to give you.
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Emmons, R. A., & Stern, R. (2013). Gratitude as a psychotherapeutic intervention. Journal of clinical psychology, 69(8), 846-855.
DeSteno, D., Li, Y., Dickens, L., & Lerner, J. S. (2014). Gratitude: A tool for reducing economic impatience. Psychological science, 25(6), 1262-1267.