DEAR KRISTIN: Every year around this time, everybody starts talking about gratitude. This might sound strange, but this whole “Attitude of Gratitude” kick is getting on my nerves. I’m tired of people telling me to be grateful. I don’t need to read a book about gratitude or listen to some gratitude guru tell me I’m not being thankful enough.
I’m a little worried -- and yes, a little resentful -- about moving into the holiday season feeling like I need to live up to all of this gratitude hype. I just want to stand in my own homegrown, heartfelt thankfulness and politely ask everybody else to mind their own damned business. And now, to make matters worse, I’m feeling guilty about feeling resentful. When did expressing gratitude become so complicated? Help me get my head right. -- ENOUGH ALREADY WITH THE GRATITUDE HYPE
DEAR HYPE: First, thank you for your honesty. Thank you for stepping up and standing in your own truth. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that a topic as lovely and gentle as gratitude can elicit such jarring emotions? But I can certainly understand how it has happened.
The thing about gratitude is that it is both a principle and a practice. “Gratitude gurus,” as you call them, can talk about and write about the principle of gratitude until the cows come home -- and I happen to believe that the topic is indeed worthy of discussion and exploration -- but the magic only happens when we transform their words into action: When we move these principles into practice; when we develop a deeper personal relationship with gratitude because we want to, not because we’re being told to.
I myself believe that there are lots of different layers to gratitude -- layers of which we might not even be aware. The capacity to access all these different layers of gratitude exists within all of us and each of us -- we might just need a bit of help getting there. This is when listening to (or at least considering) the advice and guidance of others can become instructive. Perhaps one of these “gratitude gurus” might have a suggestion or recommendation that you could put into play in your own daily life? Something that you hadn’t even considered! Given that that there are so many ways to practice gratitude, what would it hurt to consider a new technique or two?
If you try them and they don’t work, then be done with them. But at least open your heart (and your mind) to the notion that there are countless ways to lead a grateful life. What does it hurt to look at life -- and at gratitude -- through a larger prism?
No, you don’t need a fancy throw pillow from a trendy department store to tell you to “Be Grateful.” You don’t need that coffee mug with the words “Seek Gratitude” written all over it to remind you to always cultivate a grateful heart.
But if you happen to hear someone share a gratitude practice from their own lives that feels like it might work in yours, why not weave those threads into the fabric of your daily life? Part of being human is sharing experiences and listening to each other’s ideas and suggestions.
But listening doesn’t always mean accepting.
As you listen to people talk about (and write about) this topic of gratitude, use your gift of discernment to figure out if any of these principles might make sense in your own life. If they do, great. If they don’t, leave them where they are.
There will always be new ways to expand our human awareness. There will always be new ways to deepen our capacity for grateful living. It only becomes cliche if you allow it to become cliche.
Grow your gratitude with an open heart.
And stop being so cynical.