I had a few simple goals- happiness, contentment and peace. Simple as these might look, they are evasive as hell. And as irony would have it, most people want just the same things. When I turned to the experts, all the literature seemed to be pointing to one solid attribute, surprisingly missing in our fast lives- Gratitude.
For me, it took aeons to come to terms with the concepts of thankfulness and contentment. As a recovering shopaholic, I had to deal with an immense sense of entitlement. I was infected with an acute case of the “I-need-more” bug. I had developed quite a serious condition called “affluenza,” a mark of cultural clutter, leading to a dogged pursuit of ‘More’ resulting in discontent and arrogance.
Newness is enticing. Who doesn’t like the newness of things? But newness brings a predictable cycle. It first fades away. Then, we are reevaluating what we have. Not good enough. Not new enough, Not fashionable enough. So now we don’t quite like what we have, so we are not content. With discontent, we are hardly ready to feel any gratitude. And now we want what the catalogues show, or what our friends have. And just like that, we’re back to wanting more and more.
All this begs the question, “when is enough, really enough?”
I have been a practising Buddhist for the last three years and realized that I wasn’t doomed to remain on this “wanting more” treadmill forever. In my practice, I have found an antidote to always wanting more.
It was gratitude, contentment, thankfulness, compassion, and empathy amongst many other things.
I’m also a mother of a 2-year-old and my daily gratitude practice has impacted by parenting in a positive way. Whilst earlier, I had to struggle a lot with my kid, by consciously being grateful for the little things, like her smile, her twinkling eyes full of mischief, her laughter, or even her presence in my life, my equation with my kid has undergone a sea change. I love sitting quietly with a cup of coffee watching her play excitedly with her play dates. I love watching her roll and burst into peals of laughter as I tickle her. The small things matter to me more now as I have stopped chasing the extraordinary moments by being grateful for the ordinary ones.
As I started developing the attitude of gratitude, I basked in the glory of this new-found virtue, but I quickly discovered that like all other virtues, cultivating an attitude gratitude requires practice. Practice requires action. Until it is put into action in some form, it remains just as, well, a dormant attitude at it best, which fades over time.
My practice of gratitude involves several things.
- I keep a gratitude journal.
2. I practise daily gratitude meditations. I use the Gratitude Garden app.
3. I indulge in gratitude art.
4. I created my own gratitude jar- which is just a simple mason jar.
Instilling gratitude in children:
There are a host of things that parents can do to instil gratitude in children. I have listed some below:
- Do not give children everything they want.
- Tell them “Thank you,” and let them hear you say the word “Thanks.”
- Savor good times together. Create a rich narrative for your children in the form of photos, stories of them or written accounts. These help reinforce memories. You can also collect them in a scrapbook.
- Encourage children to donate money to a charity of their choice. Help and encourage them to donate old clothes and toys to other less fortunate children.
- Go on a gratitude visit. Encourage children to write a thank you note, or better still by personally visiting someone they’re grateful towards and by letting them know that they’re appreciated.
- Encourage children to keep a gratitude journal and note at least 2 good things that happened to them during the day, every day.
Gratitude is an ongoing process. There is ample research evidence that consciously practising gratitude opens up channels of creativity, making way for lasting contentment and joy whilst loosening the iron grip of entitlement.
There are some lifestyle tools that parents can practice alone or along with their children. It’s called the countering emotional discontentment practice and the kindness practice.
Countering Emotional Discontent Practice
Notice where you find discontent in your day. What thoughts keep repeating that tell you “this is not good enough” or I need something else to feel better or be happy?’ Jot these down. Rediscover the value of that object or situation you would reject. How did you originally feel about this situation or object? Reconnect with those positive feelings of appreciation and excitement you once had. Write these down. Overcome discontent by re-valuing and appreciating what is in your life today.
Bring to mind an event or a moment when you shared a word of encouragement with another or vice-versa. Remember that even the smallest and most ordinary act of kindness – a smile, a pat on the back, or a word of encouragement- is a powerful expression of caring that can have long-lasting effects. Do this during the week, at least 4 times when you find attention turning towards discontent, frustration, or any negative emotion. Rate your mood before and after the practice, on a 1-5 scale. 1=low and 5=high.
I have found it to be extremely helpful and I urge you to try out these simple practices to notice a difference in the quality of your lives.
Practising gratitude is crucial if you expect to feel that lasting joy, which is not just an upbeat, happy mood or that of fleeting ecstasy, but that which has lasting effects on the body, mind, and soul.