Why Gratitude?

positive couple

Yes, here’s another article on gratitude—not because we can’t think of other topics but because we naturally cycle around to this one again and again.

Gratitude is not a fad, not the latest trend on the World Wide Web. Gratitude is foundational to the life that so many people desire: a life that is well-lived, joyful, and connected to others and to God in good, healthy ways.

I wouldn’t even call gratitude an attitude. It’s more like an interior posture. Gratitude is about the way I position myself toward my own life, other people, creation, the world, and the Divine.

Gratitude opens the heart. When I am grateful, even about some small thing, that response opens me up. Because, with gratitude, I recognize something worth loving and enjoying. This can lead to hope: I believe that something else might happen that provides love and joy. Gratitude helps me take the risk and open my life to what wonders might come along.

Gratitude shifts the mind into a positive perspective. Although some days are truly difficult, even horrific, most of us need only one minor detail to go wrong to become cranky and negative. Gratitude can correct that. If I begin to identify what is going right, what helps me, what is doing some good in the world, then my perception shifts away from negativity.

Gratitude is not always easy, but it’s simple to practice. All I have to do is ask myself this question, or one like it: What am I grateful for today, right now? At the end of the day, I can make a list of anything in the day that felt good or worked well or gave me cause to say “thank you.” These practices are simple enough for children to do. They don’t require deep thinking or advanced theology.

Gratitude is greater than one person. Gratitude can set the tone in a meeting, at an event, in a home, among many people. One person who expresses gratitude can change the way a conversation is going. If a meeting begins with a prayer of thanksgiving, a song of joy, or—if it’s not a religious meeting—an acknowledgment of good work done and reasons to celebrate, then it’s likely that the outcome of the gathering will be much more positive than if it had begun with a scolding lecture or a listing of all the group’s problems.

Gratitude helps us build a history with hope and intention. When we practice remembering the gifts we receive day to day and year to year, we build, with intention, a personal history. I don’t deny that I was in a serious auto accident that year, but I also remember the care I received while I was recovering. I remember details of that care, and I remember specific people. I don’t try to erase the history of my depression, but in that history I include the conversation that comforted me, the day beside the lake that helped me breathe and a hope a little more, the physician who found the medication that worked, and the holiday gathering I didn’t have to skip because being around people would be so difficult.

Gratitude is more than a prayer or an attitude or a helpful strategy. It’s a way of seeing, a way of remembering, a way of proceeding.

May each of us practice gratitude a little more as the days and years go by.

About Vinita Hampton Wright 105 Articles
Vinita Hampton Wright has served as senior editor at Loyola Press for 16 years and recently became managing editor of the trade books department. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne, Days of Deepening Friendship and The Art of Spiritual Writing for Loyola Press, and most recently, The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book for Paraclete Press. Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and from 2009 to 2015 she blogged at Days of Deepening Friendship. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three cats, and a dog. In her “spare” time these days, she is working on her next novel.

8 Comments on Why Gratitude?

  1. Vinita, thank you. I believe that gratitude is central to our faith. We have so much for which to be grateful as God loved us into existence. Blessings.

  2. This is a perfect day to reflect on gratitude. Thank you Vinita. I am always so grateful for your articles. It helps me to live a life of hope.

  3. Thank you for this extremely good article. I have realized that I failed to teach my son how to be grateful, and now I can use your tips as a refresher course for both of us. It’s never too late to practice gratitude.

  4. “Gratitude is more than a prayer or an attitude or a helpful strategy. It’s a way of seeing, a way of remembering, a way of proceeding.” Thank you, Vinita, for helping me to see gratitude in a new way. I am always grateful for your wise insights!

  5. Vinita, I am very, very grateful for every article I’ve ever read of yours. I always get excited when I see a new one, and can’t wait to read it. Please keep them coming.

  6. I’m grateful for you VInita as you always manage to give me food for thought.
    I do try to practise and encourage others to be more grateful , too.

  7. “One person who expreses gratitude can change the way a conversation is going”, These should be the lyrics of the ring tones on our mobile communication gadgets. Like always, thank you, Vinita. You give me comfort and reading your articles make me feel at home.

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