I’ll Always Be Grateful

“No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”—Alfred North Whitehead

Gratitude is the appreciation and thankfulness expressed towards others for their kindness and generosity. In the grand scheme of things, it is the affirmation of the goodness that motivates and encourages a person into infusing equal or greater goodness in one’s life. It is also a recognition that the kind gesture extended was external and did not come from one’s own initiative; instead, that it came from others. Thus, in a community or society, gratitude involves humility and interdependence among its members.

The Myth of Independence
Interdependence, as derived from Buddhism, is the notion that nothing exists all on its own. No one is self-sufficient. One way or another, a person will need the support and assistance of others, even if that person would claim to be independent for the fact that he lives on his own.

In the society where one exists, grocers, fish mongers, tailors, mall operators, merchandizers, salon experts, doctors and other health professionals, co-workers, neighbors, etc., give relative service to those in need; they somehow help each other.

How does one say he is independent?
A headstrong single lad in his late 30s had chosen to immigrate to another country to seek greener pasture. He is a medical professional who mustered all the courage that he could gather to strike it out on his own. He gets a job, eventually enabling himself to afford the rest of the bare necessities for a happy and comfortable life. Despite his shyness, he would still greet his neighbors whenever he sees them. He drives to the nearest mall to buy groceries and other home supplies. At times, he would have his haircut at the salon inside the mall building. He would be identified as single and on his own; but in reality, the society has provided him a more-than-dependable support system to aid him in his life’s journey. He needs only to recognize the assistance that abound him for which, in turn, he could pay forward by helping his neighbors.

Gratefulness Is a Catalyst for a Holistic Health and Well-Being
The most powerful emotion that envelops all other virtues is gratitude. Being grateful assures the person of a happier, healthier, and successful life in which the following six attributes are included, but not limited to: 1) Better Physical Health, 2) Stronger Relationships, 3) Greater Happiness, 4) Enhanced Resilience, 5) Sharper Thinking, and 6) Reduced Levels of Stress, Anxiety, and Depression.

While the long-term effect is to exhibit an overall positive persona, there are certain ‘roadblocks’ that one should look out for that may cause the delay and prevention of the enrichment and nurturing of gratitude.

Negativity Bias. A person’s thought patterns and belief systems are often a result of the dictates or influences of his family and community elders that were passed on from past generations. The same notion (positive and negative) is then carried out to the next generation. While the individual remembers the importance of the positive enforcements, the impact on the negative would seem to be greater since he had already attached certain reactions and emotions to the learning experience. Keeping a gratitude journal and reframing the mind would help ease the pattern.

Habituation and Novelty-Seeking. Everything new excites and motivates the person. The opportunity to experience gratitude is lost when the person chases something that he doesn’t have and focuses on it—in the form of an object, thought, or relationship. He forgets what he already has and takes it for granted since it had already become part of his life, turning this into a mere habit. The key is to practice reframing the mind to understand and appreciate more what the person has, while emphasizing their value and reinforcement into one’s life.

The Inability to Acknowledge Dependency. No one could be ultimately self-sufficient. In a given society, a person will always need support from those that are essential to him—supermarket, drugstore, medical help, food shops, etc. This societal support group aids a person’s existence and is too apparent not to be recognized. Each person needs the other to exist.

Comparing Oneself with Other People. Media has been successful in providing the superficial notion that other people look better and do better in life, which in turn, destroys a person’s real-life thought patterns on the self, including one’s abilities and capabilities. Mindfulness and self-awareness is key to practicing nonjudgmental critique.

Harboring Grudges. Holding on to hate, anger, resentment, and disgust has a grave effect on the individual who was wronged. While this may seem helpful in processing the pain inflicted by the wrongdoer, it puts the person in a negative state of emotion. With proper awareness, it is always better to replace these negative emotions with love, understanding, and compassion. By doing this, it is like forgiving oneself. Forgiveness of the self is a powerful tool.

Sense of Entitlement. The demand for special treatment, exemption from having to follow rules, being self-absorbed; having excessive self-admiration, vanity, lack of empathy; and a high regard for admiration and approval are qualities to look out for. If one thinks that the world owes him and that he deserves everything, then there won’t be anything to be thankful for. It is irrational to think that a person could ultimately exist without any form of support. Most of all, practice humility.

Gratitude is not something one is born with. It is a notion that a person acquires and nurtures through time, as life’s lessons are passed on by family elders as well as society influencers. After all, the environment a person lives in and the kind of upbringing he was put through play a vital role in his choices and decision-making process. It takes a lot of practice and courage, but it reaps more for the enhancement of the self and well-being. As a sign of thankfulness, one should give in return what he has received.

*Currently working at the Philippine International Convention Center, where she began service 21 years ago, *Kathryn Valladolid Ebrahim was an alumna of St. Scholastica’s College at Manila and finished a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology, at the University of Santó Tomás.