The True Meaning of Gratitude
Gratitude is defined as “The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
True gratitude is the daily act of counting your blessings. Today, we live in a world of instant gratification, rather than instant gratitude. We zip through our lives, responding to the buzz in our pockets, watching the latest episodes on high definition televisions, consuming and wasting without a second thought. We squander our precious earth’s resources, our time, and ultimately our lives in an impulse driven society. The cost of this is an enormous happiness deficit. We live lives multitudes richer than any medieval king, but we are as tired and depressed as peasants. We taste fruit and spices from around the world, wear colorful and comfortable clothes, and have access to more information than a scholar could consume in a lifetime. So why are we unhappy? It is because we forget to give thanks.
We forget to give thanks to the parents that brought us into the world: The mothers who carried and raised us, the siblings that made the journey less lonely, and the fathers who were our heroes and role models.
We forget the trees that provide the oxygen we breathe. We neglect to thank the oceans, rivers, and clouds that carry the water our bodies need to function. We forget the food that must grow from the soil and rain, and the animals that must be born, raised, and tended to before we eat them. Even our own bodies deserve thanks. Your heart pumps your blood through your brain and muscles. Your lungs take in air, your stomach digests food, your eyes see, and your ears detect the delicate vibrations of air we interpret as sound. The simplest parts of your life are really quite miraculous when you take the time to observe them with gratitude.
The action of giving thanks is more than a meditation. You cannot write a thank you card to the Earth and sky. To show gratitude and appreciation, we must do our best to preserve the wonderful luxuries this time in history has afforded us. We must treat our bodies as expensive machines that require deliberate and loving maintenance. Consciously thank yourself by feeding your body with clean healthy food, lots of water, and fewer toxic chemicals. Visit and spend time with the forest. Jump and dance and sing while there is still time!
Consider the impact that your life has on the earth. Let’s consider a simple pasta sauce jar as an example. Rather than throwing away your glass jar, consider the energy and materials that went into its production. Does it deserve to sit, undecomposing, under a landfill until someone digs it up in a few millennia? That jar will be here millions of years after you are gone, and to simply toss it in the trash implies an apathy towards the waste that you are responsible for. Compost your food scraps. Re-use jars, boxes, and paper. Purchase products with recyclable and compostable packaging. Do whatever you have to in order to decrease the negative impact you have on the planet that is responsible for your entire existence. And even if you can only do a little bit, every bit counts.
More than anything, be grateful for the moment. Take in a deep breath. Let the air fill your lungs and take a moment to be grateful for this very second. You only have so many, and one day your heart will stop beating. Your lungs will stop taking in oxygen and powering your body. You only have this moment, the fragile current consciousness that we call the present. Be grateful for your existence on this planet at this exquisitely finite time. Your life is a miraculous and special drop in a limitless ocean of time and space.
Breathe deep. Take in this tangible and finite moment with gratitude.