What does it take to be grateful?
When I was younger and living with limited means, my late mother reminded us to be thankful no matter how little we had. We were contented over simple fried fritters and teh-O or Milo ‘kosong’ for breakfast or afternoon tea, and a simple dish over lunch and dinner. She would often share stories of her youth living in the ‘kampong’ with a very bare minimum and had to do hard work such as carrying pails of water from the river to the house to boil or for showering. Yet, she was happy and she felt it was always ‘enough’ because she practised gratitude. She said when we instil that trait in us, things will always be better as we put contentment in the equation.
Over the years, I realised practising gratitude and developing a positive outlook in my daily life go hand in hand. Whether it is at home or at work, being grateful is one key to having a fulfilling life. Consider the things that we have in our life here, in Singapore – like being with your loved ones, having first-class health services, equal education opportunities, a pleasant environment, far from natural disasters and of course good food everywhere. While we have daily challenges, being grateful usually leads to more optimism. People tend to believe the grass is always greener on the other side. However, when we see things in perspective, it is not too bad after all.
So how does one maintain the feeling of gratitude?
One can maintain the feeling of gratitude in several ways. For some, keeping a gratitude journal to document what we are grateful for works. Say, for example, we can put an entry at the end of the workday to say, “I am grateful for another day at work and completing my assignment despite the short turnaround time.” or “I am grateful for the feedback given by my manager so that I can achieve my next target better.” At the home front, it can be, “I am grateful for having my children around me and receive kisses before they set for school.” or “I am grateful for being able to send dad to his regular check-ups and knowing he is fit as a bull.”
In addition to reaping the therapeutic benefits of listing down the items you are grateful for, the journal may help you regain perspective during difficult times. You can always refer back to the journal to see your previous listings of what you were grateful for. With Facebook and social media, expressing and sharing your gratitude online can give you reminders as well and best of all it can also lift others. The good vibes are passed on from you to those who read your posts.
Grateful for others and you
Being grateful is not only towards others, but it is also important to practice the habit of being grateful towards yourself. You too can draw positive energy towards others as much as them to you. When you express your gratitude openly to your loved ones or people you care about and appreciate, it will increase their self-esteem as well and reminds them how much they mean to you. It also strengthens relationships with your family, colleagues, and connections.
It is not difficult to bolster your relationships with others by following these simple ways:
- Tell someone that you love, care and appreciate them today. This can be your parents, spouse, siblings, children, colleagues, and even your superiors. I know this can be something we take for granted especially for those people who are closest to us. We may think that it is unnecessary and it is a given, but in actual fact, they yearn for us to tell them.
- Thank someone who has done something for you. Use your WhatsApp messages, send an email with an image or funny gif, pick up the phone to say hello and say how grateful you are for having them. Get a card and snail-mail them. Thank your friend for the cake they baked, or to your neighbour for babysitting your children when you needed to rush to the grocery store. How many of us practice saying thank you to our colleagues and superiors for their help and mentorship? In my personal experience, receiving feedback from your managers or bosses can be an awkward situation. You can either take it with an open heart and work towards a better outcome or grieve to death about it. I realised when you learn to appreciate the good sides of people and thank them for the lessons, it will open a whole new dimension in the working relationship.
- Do a favour for someone without expecting something in return. Buy your colleague’s favourite bubble tea, or thank your boss with a bouquet or a note. When we do something with sincerity and gratitude, our hearts will feel at ease. Ever worked with a difficult colleague or client? Trust me when I say, you will thank them for bringing the best in you and the working relationship. Try sending a thank you note to them. You will be surprised to see their reactions and how they will behave towards you just because you showed compassion and understanding.
- Smile. Yes, smile! It helps to bring good neurons into your brains, makes you feel happier and less stressed. When your smile is being reciprocated, it may send positive vibes and could make your day as well.
One may argue that in Asian societies, we may feel a little awkward in expressing our gratitude. Don’t be. By practising gratitude, we end up happier, more contented, less materialistic, and less likely to suffer from depression and stress.
What are you grateful for today?