The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

Gratitude vs. Complaining:
To experience the benefits of gratitude, we have to practice gratefulness regularly because it doesn’t come automatically for most of us. Take a moment to think about this statement.

Have you ever known a happy person who wasn’t grateful or a grateful person who wasn’t happy?
Perhaps a way to look at this is that happiness is a result of gratitude. The wonderful thing about this is that, while we cannot always just choose to be happy, we can always choose to be grateful, which results in happiness. So in a roundabout way, we are choosing happiness when we choose to be grateful. There is always something to be grateful for. You can be grateful that you are alive and have opportunities to learn and grow and share the love. You can be grateful for the sun, the rain, the snow, the beauty of nature, the green of the grass, the glory of trees, etc.

On the other hand, there are always things to complain about if that is your choice. Instead of noticing the beauty of the flowers, you can complain about having to water them. Instead of being grateful for the opportunity to be alive, you can complain about how hard it is.

The effects of chronic complaining on the brain:

  • Results from a brain mechanism called negative plasticity. Plasticity is a term used in neurology to explain how we learn new things via communication between neurons. When you learn something new, such as a language, new pathways of communication begin developing in the brain.
  • Affects your day-to-day behaviors and belief systems for the worse; reduces self-esteem.
  • Can raise your risk of dementia releasing excess cortisol, a stress hormone, that more rapidly degenerates areas of the brain related to learning and memory.

Building your Gratitude Muscles- A Daily Effort:
If you want to feel gratitude, you have to know how to practice gratitude and you have to work at it. It’s like if you just let the garden go, then the weeds will come and take over the whole garden. In the same way, if you just let yourself go, just let your life be, then you won’t have any gratitude. So, gratitude is a good thing but you have to work at it.

You have to remind yourself every day, “How lucky I am! How lucky I am to be alive, how lucky I am to love life, how lucky I am to have an organic veggie garden, how lucky I am to have children, how lucky I am to have pets to live with, how lucky I am to have a job.” Or, “How lucky I am to not have a job.” Either way, there’s a feeling of thankfulness.

At any given moment, we each get to choose which part of ourselves we want to express – our ego wounded self or our heart and soul. If you decide to trust your mind over your heart and soul, you will likely find yourself noticing what you don’t like and complaining about it in order to attempt to control it. Complaining is a form of control and the left-brain mind believes that if you complain enough, you can have control over getting what you want.

What do you want to choose?
The really great thing is that, given that we are beings of free will, we get to choose who we want to be, each and every moment!