DOUBLE ENTENDRE – Gratitude

By Saul Levine, MD

 

 

Ria Munk was a wealthy young Viennese woman who shot herself after an unhappy love affair in 1911.Photography By Mark Raynes Roberts

Ria Munk was a wealthy young Viennese woman who shot herself after an unhappy love affair in 1911.

 

 

 

Gratitude

 

 

 

Gratitude is crucial to personal satisfaction. Individuals who are grateful for aspects of life we take for granted, like their health, food, shelter, and relationships, feel more satisfied than those who are forever wanting more than they need. Those who appreciate each day and, yes, the beauty in nature, tend to have a grounded sense of being and feel closer to others. Conversely, those who are always dissatisfied with their lives tend to be negative and resentful.

 

Constantly bemoaning one’s fate is antithetical to gratitude, and that negativism often repels others. “Well, of course,” you say, “those blessed with health and wealth are more positive than those less fortunate!” It’s true that people in the midst of physical or emotional pain don’t exactly count their blessings. But studies have shown that money really doesn’t buy a sense of gratitude or fulfillment.

 

Those very rich individuals who strut like peacocks (need I name them?) solely due to their wealth do emanate a distasteful smugness. These people offend us, but it is often a defensive posture that belies their unhappiness and insecurity. These people are annoying, but they actually help us discern what is really important. If you are fortunate enough to have an authentic sense of yourself, your relationships and values, then you most likely feel fulfilled in life.

 

Being grateful for what we have even in times of setbacks and struggle actually helps us overcome and heal more quickly. Those with little gratitude in their souls will be missing a vital piece of their humanity. Studies show that among people who are equivalent in health and social class, those who are grateful are more optimistic and more readily overcome their problems, in part because they get more emotional support from others.

 

 Of course, saying, Just be grateful,” sounds inane (like the irreverent Monty Python song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” which demonstrated forced self-happiness in the midst of losing one’s limbs), but the truth is that gratitude enables us to withstand setbacks and mobilize our resilience.

 

Our predominant attitude toward life is much more crucial than our wealth or status. Some of the most grateful and satisfied people are less fortunate or in underdeveloped countries. As long as basic necessities of life can be provided, a prevailing positive attitude plays a major role in personal and social well-being.  Studies show that optimists live longer and healthier lives than pessimists.

 

Those who do better in crises and in their day-to-day lives tend to be grateful for the mundane as well as the magical. They appreciate such small stuff as sunny days, summer storms, nature’s beauty, the tastes and aromas of food, and the presence of friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





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