What We Can Gain by Practicing Gratitude

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Gratitude was the standard practice in the home where I was raised; it was taught at an early age and expected at all times.

Growing up in the south played a roll in ingraining this along with the all ‘yes ma’am’s’ and ‘no sir’s’ that still pervade my vocabulary. However, it hasn’t been until the recent months in my adult life that I have come to see just how deeply impactful this childhood discipline would be.

What we practiced will begin to take root.

‘Thank you’ was the response I watched modeled to the bagger boy at Kroger and the teller at the bank. I wasn’t very old when I graduated from the parental prompting of ‘now what do you say?’ and began to respond, on my own, with those two words to my teachers each day upon leaving class and even when went over to someone’s house for dinner where lasagna was served.

Gratitude has not come easily and my impatience has seemed to skyrocket in the recent months since our move to China.

Most days I wake up before the sun does to the sound of roosters crowing and pigs squealing (at pitches I was not aware swine were capable of producing) as they devourer their morning slop. The water is often cold when I go to shower and at times carries the same odor as sewage.

It’s laughable now at how impatient I once was with our basic Internet and cable bundle from Comcast. When I attempt to download an album from iTunes or a podcast, my wait time is usually around three days; I do not exaggerate.

Days which flow nicely with seamless communication and high levels of productivity, that are free of hiccups and broken equipment, which are nonexistent on this side of the world.

But even on the most maddening, tear filled, frustration rampant, teeth grinding, pull-your-hair-out kind of days; I can’t shake this learned response of gratitude.

I realize that makes me sound a bit like Pavlov’s dog.  But had I not been taught the response of gratitude and practiced it when I had to eat lasagna as a kid, I would not gained the ability to say ‘thank you’ in the moments when it feels counterintuitive, much the way it feels these days.

What we practice becomes ingrained.  

Whether it’s positive or negative, eventually what we practice becomes our bent, our instinct, and our first response.

Practicing gratitude alters your heart and mind in ways that you could never imagine in the moment because gratitude comes back and shows up on the hard days.

When nothing goes smoothly and everything in the world seems to be working against you.  When frustrations rise and impatience flares, gratitude extinguishes them and our hearts then begin to follow in suit.

The discipline and practice of gratitude will sustain us.

On the days when we don’t feel overwhelmingly grateful, discipline is what carries us to the moments when gratitude bursts from our hearts and overflows from our eyes with thankful tears in an effortless manner.

These moments are made even sweeter when we have practiced gratitude in the small things and on the hard days.

These moments are what we stand to gain when we diligently practice thankfulness.

And I could really go for some lasagna right now.