Gratitude can be an attitude, a posture towards life, not just a polite reaction to someone else's kindness.
The Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero held that "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others".
A virtue is defined as being of moral excellence or of great character.
Living a grateful life rather than just feeling grateful is not always easy to do. If we live life from a grateful standpoint, we go beyond just making ourselves feel better or happier. When we put gratitude at the heart of everything, it will positively change the way in which we connect with others. We will be actively seeking the good and kindness in the actions of others.
Living life gratefully has also been referred to as 'deep gratitude.' While feeling gratitude may seem simple, deep gratitude has not only become a hot topic for discussion in modern sociological and psychological circles, it has been discussed by moral philosophers for centuries!
Gratitude is built on six pillars. We need all of these in order to develop an attitude of gratitude and to make it a positive force in our own lives and in society as well. These six pillars are: relatedness, sincerity, empathy, self-regard, integrity, and humility.
Deep gratitude requires that we commit to putting the relationships in our lives at the top of the list of priorities in our lives, despite all the busyness and distractions, which we often get caught up with. Our relatedness to others is essential in adopting an attitude of gratitude!
In western cultures where we express gratitude regularly, sometimes we are just going through the motions and are on auto pilot. To cultivate deep gratitude though we need to be authentic and sincere! We need to express gratitude in ways that are meaningful to the other person. If we are not sincere our gratitude will soon pass and may even be selfish, with us expecting something in return.
Sincerity comes from an absence of affectation, deceit, or hypocrisy. Sincere gratitude needs to be free from all those things in order to be effective.
Even when we have located the genuine place to be grateful from, it is also essential to be empathetic. To see things from the other person's perspective. When we do this, we will be able to put the kindness of others into context.
Living gratefully is often most tested in times of adversity. It's not possible to feel grateful in all moments. In those moments we can still live gratefully though.
We can do this by focussing on our own position in life and all the things that we personally are grateful for. Self-regard or self-love comes in in these situations. It helps us to focus on all the things we are grateful for; everything is a gift, including our very lives. This can help us to see moments of gratitude in these very trying moments.
Integrity often means being honest about who we are. We take responsibility for our own lives. We are able to reflect on our own being, and how we can improve our sense of deep gratitude and become even happier.
Such self-reflection is essential if we look at ourselves as a work in progress and avoid perfectionist tendencies which could become an obstacle to living gratefully.
A solid way to avoid these perfectionist tendencies is through humility. In fact, it is impossible to experience deep gratitude without it. We need to realise that we have only reached this point in our journey with the help of others. We need to find a way of not only paying people back in a meaningful way but also spreading positivity through the ripple effect of gratitude.
It makes us more easily expose our vulnerability and opens us up to life and to receive assistance from others. It makes us realise and be comfortable with the fact that we are indeed indebted to others.
Life is indeed a work in progress. Through these six pillars of gratitude, we can remain vigilant and live life gratefully, improving our own lives and that of those around us!