Grateful For Gratitude

“It’s gratefulness that makes you happy”
- David Steindl-Rast

By Holly Thompson

I recently watched a TED talk by Mr Steindl-Rast where he constantly repeated this line, over and over, as if waiting for it to seep into the audience's mind and plant a seed. It had been 5 years since the video was recorded, but it was still as poignant as ever. I’m not here to rant about how good the talk was (I could be here all day doing that), but it is important for you to know who planted this seed deep within my mind. However, if you do get a spare 8 minutes, it’s really worth a listen.

The main idea of Steindl-Rast’s speech is that in order to get the most out of life and happiness, one must take life as if you were crossing a road. Stop, Look and then Go.

By stopping what you are doing, pausing your daily rush of things to do, you give your body and mind a chance to pause. Whether just for a few seconds or 5 minutes, this pause allows you to reconnect with yourself.

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During this pause, you get a chance to look at everything around you, literally and/or metaphorically. If you're doing this exercise out in the street, what can you see? Any flower baskets? Birds? Summer butterflies? The natural wonders are picturesque, but often we are so busy that we rush by without a second glance. Or perhaps you think of your family. Maybe you have a nan who never forgets a birthday or anniversary, yet you haven’t spoken to her for weeks. Give her a call, thank her for everything she does/has done. The same principle goes for friends or co-workers. It will take a maximum of ten minutes out of your day. By taking time to think about others and be grateful can make the world of difference.

Then go. Continue your day, knowing you have taken time to be thankful for what you are and what you have.

Obviously we cannot be grateful for everything, but there is always something to be grateful for. Even if it’s a tiny shred of light in an otherwise dark and gloomy room, cling onto that light and focus all of your attention on it. Gratitude is a way of making everyday life just that little bit brighter, a little bit happier.

Anyone who says “I have nothing to be grateful for” really needs to come and have a word with me. Another line from Steindl-Rast’s speech is that opportunities are given to us all the time: the opportunity to learn, to suffer, to sleep, to live. He says that one of the “wonderful richnesses” of life is that we are constantly getting new opportunities. We have to be grateful for every opportunity we get as you never know when an opportunity is going to be your last.

I know that it’s very rich for a teenager to write about how we need to take every chance we are given and be thankful for it, but everyday I encounter peers, family and teachers alike who are  so caught up in their work loads that they lose the want to do any of it. This often leads to anger at such things as dodgy pieces of technology or cold food. You may wonder, really where’s the possibility of gratefulness in that? There is the possibility to be grateful in any situation.

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For example, traffic jams allow you to take some time to just breathe and listen to some music on the radio. You can be thankful for the fact that you are having time that you can’t do anything about. Where as some people may anger at the traffic, anger isn’t going to magically get rid of the traffic, only send out negative vibes from you. If you get negative about traffic first thing in the morning, it can dictate negatively how you react to situations throughout the day. Whereas if you take time to be grateful, create a list of things you are grateful for, in your head or in writing, you take the opportunity to draw happiness to you.

Gratitude is a conscious effort. You have to physically make the change and think  “What am I grateful for?” But trust me, if and when you do, the gratefulness will make you a whole lot happier.