“Gratitude changes us. It takes no prisoners, offers no mercy, and gives no ground. Gratitude is a revolution and a civil war, an unrepentant killer of the most miserable parts of our nature.” ~M2bH
Just as there are silent killers attacking your body this very moment (toxins, free radicals, germs, viruses), there are moral and psychological killers attacking your happiness and quality of life as well. You have an immune system that prevents most of the internal enemies from wreaking much damage to your body most of the time.
There is a powerful emotional immune system, a kind of psychological antibiotic that can destroy the emotional viruses that sicken your soul and well-being, robbing you of confidence, peace and happiness too.
In fact, it is the single most effective killer of unhappiness. It will change the way you see the world, the way you interact with others and how you enjoy the depths of happiness that are available to those possessed of this killer of emotional toxins.
This life-enhancing, happiness-inducing miracle drug that does, in fact, ruthlessly kill its enemies—you’ve guessed it—is gratitude.
But What, Exactly, Does Gratitude Kill?
1. Gratitude Kills Regret
Regret is the loss we feel at having done something we should have avoided or at failing to do what we shouldn’t have avoided.
And it gnaws at us if we let it.
Gratitude, on the other hand, destroys regret by nullifying the loss at its core. With gratitude (the habitual way of thinking and being, not merely the expression), there is little room for regret because we appreciate the good that comes from the paths not travelled as well as the paths ill-advisably ventured.
Regret becomes meaningless because we are truly thankful for the growth that our mistakes pushed us into, for the lessons taught and the insights acquired, and wisdom deepened by our stumbles and face-plants. We recognize we are who we are today in part because of the missteps we’ve taken in the past.
2. Gratitude Kills Disappointment
Disappointment is the feeling we have when things don’t work out the way we wanted them to, when reality falls short of our expectations. Life just didn’t go our way. Our marriage crashed or our education was misspent or our career never took off as expected.
Gratitude kills disappointment because we are sincerely grateful for what we have. Grateful people don’t stare into the abyss of missed opportunities or unsatisfying lives. Grateful people love what they do have and so they cherish whatever life became and feel privileged just to be able to open their eyes one more day.
For the grateful, there is no room for disappointment; Each moment offers life. And the grateful are thankful for both the tiniest and largest things most people seem usually to take for granted. Things could be so much worse than they are right now.
Gratitude turns disappointment into lessons learned, discoveries made, alternatives explored, and new plans set in motion. Why feel bitter that things are not one way when you can be grateful they are at least as good as they are and that you now have the opportunity to change them, set new courses and trajectories?
But keep in mind what I’m not saying. I’m not suggesting grateful people ignore reality, or simply suck it up, or pretend things are better than they are. They literally and actually feel good about what they have even if ingrates seem only to notice what everyone else has.
3. Gratitude Kills Boredom
Boredom is the absence of motivation or inspiration or ambition or interest. It is the quality of the bored person, not the quality of the circumstance the person finds boring.
Gratitude ends boredom because if your general attitude is thankfulness, then you are thankful to be where you are, surrounded by the people surrounding you, or grateful to have alone time, if that’s the case, to think and remember and plan or meditate and pray.
You are grateful for each moment as a gift from God or Life, something to cherish, to make the best of, to use and enjoy to its fullest.
Those who are truly grateful are deeply moved by the privilege of living, of waking up another day to the beauty of life’s possibilities and opportunities. They therefore make productive use of it. They get outside, do things, learn things, reach out to people, join movements and generally make the most of the lives they have been so thankfully given.
Where one may find no interest in a lecture or documentary or a poorly planned party, the grateful are in the moment, enjoying what is enjoyable, taking an active interest in what it is, even if it’s not something better.
Because the attitude of the grateful is focused on what they have (not what they don’t have, or what the occasion isn’t), they cherish each moment. They recognize life as a precious gift. And so they tend to be proactive about their circumstances.
If something doesn’t interest them, instead of complaining about it, they change it by either improving what it is, finding something in it to appreciate, or leaving to find something that does interest them.
4. Gratitude Kills Loneliness
If gratitude truly drives you, if it fills you and is the lens through which you view life, then you appreciate the opportunities given to you to enter the lives of others. It is a precious memory, a granted solemnity, a tender interaction deeply appreciated.
There is little room for loneliness because it is crowded out and pushed off the cliff of appreciation. You less likely feel bad for those not paying attention to you, and more likely feel grateful that there are people you can pay attention to.
The focus in outward, not inward. The mindset is on what you can do, not what others have neglected to do for you.
5. Gratitude Kills Unhappiness
The single greatest cause of happiness is gratitude. That’s a big statement. But just try to feel sad and grateful at the same time. You can’t do it. Like light chasing darkness out of the room, gratitude ends the life of unhappiness whenever it’s invited in.
Unhappiness is not the natural byproduct of bad life experiences. It is the natural byproduct of bad thinking about bad life experiences (or bad thinking about good life experiences).
But gratitude changes those thought patterns. Gratitude becomes the new lens, the purer lens that changes the way you interpret the world, life, all experiences you are faced with or are called to go through. You see the seed of growth in the trial, the opportunity in the challenge, the polish in life’s painful scrubbings, the meaning in what others see only as purposeless and arbitrary.
Gratitude, then, is the filler of emotional potholes, the killer that obliterates the ugliness that plagues all of our thoughts to some degree, from time to time. It destroys negativity and unhappiness and the frustration of a life that is not what you envisioned it to be.
As a matter of fact, gratitude increases the likelihood that you get off your duff and do something about creating the life you want to live in the first place.
Does gratitude kill? Absolutely! But from the fertilized soil of gratitude’s carnage, happiness is finally allowed to bloom in spectacular ways.
Don’t believe me? Try it! You’ll be grateful you did.