“The root of joy is gratefulness...It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
- David Steindl-Rast
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful. It can also be described as the willingness to show appreciation for the gifts and kindnesses bestowed to us in our lives. Many philosophers and theologians consider gratitude of be one of the foundational virtues - a requisite for a well lived life. John Milton said that, "Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world." And the Medieval Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart wrote that, "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough."
How do I practice gratitude?
If you are interested in starting a practice of gratitude, the possibilities are nearly endless. You might begin by cataloging the people and things in your life that sustain you, give you pleasure or simply make you smile. If you enjoy a well cooked meal, stop for a moment before you eat to acknowledge the farmers who produced the food, be grateful for the sun and rain which ensured its growth, think about those who prepared the food and express your thanks to those who might be sharing that meal with you. In our materialistic culture we are constantly being prompted to be envious and anxious about what we do or do not have - the first way out of that mindset is to remind ourselves of the many gifts in our lives and to be thankful for them.