THE BLOG

Does Gratitude Have a Role in Modern Life?

10/02/2015 11:31 GMT | Updated 11/04/2015 10:59 BST

How many of us complain at how much we have to do each day, the hurdles and obstacles that come our way, the irritations that life throws at us. It may be the lousy weather or the volume of traffic. And what about our children? How many of them actually say 'please' or 'thank you' or appreciate what they have in life, like the opportunity for an education or the meal that is provided for them each evening. Should we be grateful? Does gratitude have a role in modern life or should we simply accept this as how it is?

So often we're racing from one task to the next, stopping without a second thought about what we're doing. We race round the supermarket or go online and order our regular grocery shop, we jump into the car, stopping to fill it with petrol on the way to our next appointment or perhaps complain about the length of time our decorators are taking to finish their work. That last one, by the way, was me, feeling stressed at how long my house was being inconvenienced, until I came to my senses and realised how fortunate I was to have a home and be able to hire decorators!

But this mindset prompted me to question how often we feel grateful for what we have and to consider if it's relevant or even important to feel gratitude in these modern times. It seems to be relatively easy for us to take things for granted and not appreciate our good fortune. After all, we live in a buy now pay later society where so many of us have access to a great many things. Do we actually need to be thankful for it all?

Many of us work hard, why shouldn't we have what we want! But lots of people work long hours, sometimes in back-breaking conditions for little or virtually no reward. Yes, it's reasonable that those who can should enjoy the money they earn, but let's not forget those less fortunate, let's remember not to take things for granted. Sometimes even setbacks and disappointment can bring valuable experiences. They can provide significant life lessons that we eventually end up being appreciative of.

Gratitude is important inasmuch as it stops us from being superficial and continually wanting more, constantly seeking the next fix. Mindfully spending money, buying things, treating ourselves from time to time, sharing our homes, food and good fortune with friends and family are all part of investing in, fully utilising and appreciating what we have. Being present in the moment and pausing to really value and enjoy our good fortune enables the experience to be all the more meaningful and satisfying.

Often the significant memories in life are those that came for free, where we enjoyed a day in the park, the countryside or on the beach, playing and enjoying the colours, sounds and smells of nature. Be grateful that we're able to go for a walk, climb trees, go bird watching or fishing.

An attitude of gratitude provides the opportunity to be reflective and sensitive to others too. When we take time to consider our life through their eyes it can provide valuable insights. Equally, seeing what others are happy and grateful for can highlight what is important, the things that money can't buy. Good health, loving relationships, a safe home, work that we find satisfying, stimulating and rewarding are things that money can't necessarily buy and yet are the most important things in life to be grateful for.

Being grateful includes good manners. Saying 'thank you' demonstrates respect and can mean the world to the recipient. When someone does something thoughtful for us a simple 'thank you' acknowledges that we've noticed and appreciate it. Only they know how much effort it took, even though it may seem relatively minor to us. Saying 'thanks' enables them to feel valued.

Being grateful does not mean being a pushover and accepting repeatedly poor service or forgoing our own needs. But it can mean that we revise our perspective on life. If a restaurant has run out of our favourite dish, rather than be outraged let's appreciate the other choices and be grateful for the opportunity to try something new. If we have to queue for a while let's treat ourselves to a few moments quiet time. Use the opportunity to stop and feel grateful that we're safe and in such a fortunate position.

So, next time you're feeling aggrieved that they've run out of 'your' bread or that you're having to wait to pick up the latest model of phone just stop and consider the importance of gratitude, remember how good it is to be healthy, well and fortunate enough to be in your position.