We’ve all heard that being thankful is good for us. But it can be hard to feel grateful when we’re suffering, or when things just aren’t going our way. It might seem like we have nothing to be grateful for, so the idea that we should be grateful can feel like a burden.
Two features of the mind make it hard to feel grateful. One is that we’re designed to notice what’s wrong, not what’s right. I find that when I’m struggling with a pain in my body, for example, it consumes my attention, making it feel like everything is wrong when in fact almost everything is right. This tendency makes sense because it allows us to notice and fix problems.
We’re also built to notice relative change, rather than the status quo. Whatever we have quickly get zeroed out, like hitting the tare button on a scale; we then notice deviations from that arbitrary zero point. This is why recovery from a terrible illness feels amazing, but feeling well the other 99% of the time feels humdrum.
Fortunately gratitude isn’t something we force ourselves to feel, any more than we can stop our irritability or depression on command. Being grateful comes simply from paying attention. And it can happen at any time, any day, for a million reasons, and while we can’t manufacture it, we can practice noticing the things we have every day.
That’s what this meditation is about—a focus on noticing and remembering all the parts of our ordinary lives. I’ll be interested to hear your reactions.
To download the mp3 file of this meditation, right click (or double tap) here and save the file.