… and why it is so important for living a meaningful life
When I think about gratitude, the word thankfulness comes to mind. I have often equated it with showing appreciation to someone for something they have done for me or helped me with, whether they ought to or not. I find it easy to say thank you to people for even the smallest things because I believe that when they do something for me, they do so by choice and I do not take that for granted.
I’m grateful for the intangible things.
What I don’t do so well or enough of is just being thankful for the things that no one has done for me in particular — the more intangible things, the things that are easy to take for granted because they occur naturally, the things over which no one has any direct control, but which have significant positive effects on my life. For example, the fact that I have woken up every morning my entire life, including today, has become so routine that I don’t even realise how big of a deal it is. Every day, people die in their sleep, and here I am, not being present enough to take a moment to be thankful the minute I open my eyes each day.
I take for granted the clean water that I have access to for drinking, taking a shower, and cooking. It’s not the case for so many others, some not even that far away from me. All my senses are intact — I can see the beauty of nature, the people I love and where I’m going. I can hear. I can speak, feel, do things that I want when I want, without impediment. Imagine not being able to read, or write, or taste food! And yet, I barrel through these things without a single thought for just how amazing it is that I have the privilege. I only have to look around to see those who aren’t as lucky.
Then there are the things that I do for myself which I forget to be grateful for simply because I did them myself and do not have to say thank you to anyone — like the fact that I pay my bills, drive myself around, go on holiday and do any other activities involved in caring for myself. I forget that not everyone has the same luxuries, and so I don’t fully appreciate the extent of my good fortune.
There are also the things that I do not immediately appreciate — the hard things, the tough experiences, the ones from which I learn valuable lessons. These are things I am quick to complain about, be angry or sad about and view negatively because I do not recognise their value, or perhaps I choose not to. For example, the awful and unpleasant end of a romantic relationship, a failure at work or the loss of a loved one. Because my brain is wired to pick up and focus on negativity more easily, these events and experiences remain a source of discontent, when I could actually be grateful for the lessons they have taught me and for the newness that they bring if I stay present.
I’m grateful for the hard things.
I also take for granted the people and relationships in my life — family, friends, mentors and coaches. It’s easy to overlook them because subconsciously I feel entitled to them, or I assume they’ll always be there.
But as the year draws to an end, and I look back at what has been a tough year for me, as it probably has been for many, I cannot but notice the moments when I could have been more present, more mindful and more grateful.
I am grateful for the challenges that I faced — they helped me build resilience. I am grateful for the things that did not quite go the way that I wanted — I discovered completely new directions that brought unexpected joy. I am grateful for the things that took me out of my comfort zone — those were the moments I grew the most. I am grateful for the times when I felt pain — they made me even more appreciative of my moments of ease. I am grateful for my friends — the old ones and the new; I would not have survived this year without their love and support. I am grateful for having a job to go to every day — even though there were days when I was exhausted and wished I did not have to work. I am grateful for breath and for good health, grateful that I can close my eyes, inhale, exhale and open my eyes again. I am grateful for the opportunity to do the things I love, the opportunity to choose myself. I am grateful for solitude and for the gift of reflection. I am even grateful for the pandemic, because it forced me to reassess my life and the things that really matter. I am grateful for the chance to curate and live a life of meaning, a life that makes me happy, a life that is full and that is worth living.
So, I challenge you today, to think about the things that you overlook, take for granted, assume are too small to be called out, and mindfully express or feel gratitude for them. Gratitude improves our sense of wellbeing. Gratitude enables healing. Gratitude encourages positivity. Gratitude gets us through the tough days. And the more grateful we are for the goodness in our lives, the more things there are to be grateful for.
Count your blessings…
Osato Evbuomwan is a member of The Room and a Senior Marketing Manager at Unilever who is passionate about serving the African consumer. Creator of “The Talking Circle”, she is on a quest to cultivate a brave and safe space for conversations that challenge taboos and change mindsets.