Everything you read about angels states that when you’re in a state of gratitude, your angels rejoice and dance around. If you’re like me, you’ve heard countless people say that practicing gratitude is good for your wellbeing, good for manifesting money, good for stress relief, and all this other stuff. Gratitude is touted as the key to undoing all the bad things in your life, especially financial problems.
Despite all this, I admit, the “practice of gratitude” is something I’ve always had trouble with. Whenever I sit down to use my gratitude journal, I don’t feel genuine appreciation for the air that I breathe or the roof over my head or whatever the hell else people tell you you’re supposed to be grateful for every day. It just feels more like I’m trying to remember what gratitude feels like than actually being in a state of appreciation for those things. Additionally, I find it really hard to appreciate things like the air I breathe when it seems like I’m struggling so much in so many different areas. Even still, like a lot of people, I used my gratitude journal almost every day in an attempt to feel less shitty about the current state of my life (because let’s be real, that is the only reason I used it). My inability to focus on gratitude plagued me all the time. I could feel that writing in my gratitude journal wasn’t accomplishing anything.
The problem with gratitude is that it can’t be forced.
Or mustered up, or summoned for the purposes of igniting positive change in your life. When you try to, the appreciation isn’t genuine. You’re not grateful, you’re trying to be grateful.
Because of this, focusing on gratitude in this way will never lead to health or prosperity or joy, regardless of what most spiritual gurus say. This is why so many of us abandon the practice of gratitude.
So what is the real value of gratitude? Why does everyone make such a big deal about it? Is there actually a way to “practice” gratitude at all?
I didn’t really seek the answer to these questions, but the answers found me anyways.
The Christmas Miracle
This past Christmas, while I was making us some Christmas Day green juice, my boyfriend Ben went into the back yard to let the dog in. While he was there, he found a purple metal Lulu Lemon water bottle (above) that had been sitting in the back yard. He brought it in and said “is this your water bottle? It’s been in the backyard since at least your birthday party.”
I had never seen it before. My birthday is in August, so whoever had left it there clearly wasn’t coming back for it.
“It’s not mine,” I said with a shrug.
“Do you want it?” Ben asked. “I’ll wash it off for you.”
Again I shrugged in response to this. I never really carried around a water bottle because, although I drink 4 liters a day, I’ve never found a water bottle that I liked. I usually drink out of a mason jar with one of those straw lids (seriously). Bottles are always either too expensive, don’t hold enough water, made of plastic, just plain ugly, or some other thing. I had been given a plastic one with a straw in it as a gift a few months prior and never used it because the straw was weird and you had to suck really hard to get a sip of water and I didn’t like it. Also it was too small.
After Ben washed the water bottle for me, I started using it when I didn’t feel like dragging my mason jar around, and found that it was a lot easier to carry (duh). It fit in my car’s cupholders, and I could put my green juice in the jar and still have water in my bottle. Over time I started bringing it everywhere, and felt this new sense of relief because I never had to worry about having something to drink out of. I always had the water bottle with me.
My Moment in the Light
This past weekend I was with Ben. I got a new phone and we went grocery shopping. We took my car and I brought the water bottle with me.
As we pulled in the driveway of his place after we were done, I went to take a sip from the water bottle and, again, I felt relieved that I had the water bottle there. It was just so nice to have on hand.
When I was drinking, I suddenly noticed. Oh my god, I held genuine, not-mustered-up unbridled appreciation for something: the water bottle. It was SO utterly convenient, I loved it so much.
Ecstatic with this realization, I turned to my boyfriend, held the water bottle in the air, and practically screamed “HOLD ON, can I just say— I’m going to share something I’m grateful for because we never do that. I AM SO grateful for this water bottle. It is so fucking convenient and makes life so easy and it’s METAL and it was FREE! And YOU cleaned it up for me! Which is awesome because I would’ve totally been too lazy to! Having this water bottle has no joke improved the quality of my life. I love it so fucking much and it’s so fucking awesome!”
I felt like this was kind of a big deal on its own, but I had an even bigger revelation when I witnessed Ben’s response.
The Sudden Realization
Ben was elated (and a little shocked, in a good way) by my sudden outburst of appreciation. As he explained to me why he chose the water bottle, how it was only going to waste in the backyard, how he thought the phrase on it suited me, and so on, I was able to see the effect my gratitude had on him.
When I decided to share with him how grateful I was, I did it purely on an impulse. One thing I hadn’t anticipated was how it would make him feel when I expressed my gratitude.
He was overwhelmed with appreciation because I was so grateful for this thing he gave me.
I had been so busy trying to find things in my own life to be grateful for I had never even thought about the effect expressing my gratitude might have on others.
Then it occurred to me. I finally understood gratitude.
The truth about gratitude
Gratitude isn’t just about what you are grateful for. Gratitude is EVEN MORESO about expressing appreciation to others so that they can FEEL APPRECIATED.
Gratitude can’t be forced, which is why it’s important to take note of the things you’re grateful for when you’re already in a state of appreciation for them.
Other people seeing you in a state of gratitude inspires them, just as observing others in a state of gratitude can inspire you.