"All happy people are grateful.
Ungrateful people cannot be happy.
We think being unhappy leads people to complain,
but complaining leads to people becoming unhappy."
The other day I spent a great deal of time writing and thinking about gratitude. While I was looking up some great sites about gratitude (see Monday's post for details), I came across the quote that's written above and I thought to myself, "Wow, that really is true." I'm sure there are plenty of people that are ungrateful that experience happy moments, but I don't think anyone who is truly, deeply happy is ungrateful. I think that happiness is something that can take shape in different forms, and the form Prager is talking about is that deep and lasting happiness. Sure, ungrateful people can have their moments of bliss or joy when something's going particularly well in their lives, but I don't think they can truly experience what it means to be deep-down happy until they become grateful for what they have in their lives.
In my experience (and looking at the experiences of others), when you're happy, you become thankful. When you're thankful, you become happy. As I discussed the other day, gratitude really has many positive benefits and I honestly believe that it's one of those things that brings out happiness within me -- no matter what. Even on the worst day, in the worst mood, if I start thinking about the things I have going for me in my life, all of the things I'm grateful for, I instantly feel uplifted. The trick here is actually getting myself to a place where I'm able to let those grateful thoughts in...Sometimes my mind just isn't in the mood for them! Gratitude always, always, always brings a smile to my face once I can get myself to a place where I've opened my mind to it. I'll admit that sometimes it's not easy. When you're facing a heartbreak or when something terrible happens, gratitude isn't always the first thing to come to mind, but once you can bring yourself back to it, you'll find -- as I always do -- that you are inspired and much, much happier.
When I came across the quote above, it really got me thinking about which comes first: the happiness or the gratitude? Are happy people grateful or are grateful people happy? It seems to make sense that happy people would be grateful for their happiness (and for all of the things that make them happy), but it also makes sense that people who are very grateful would be very happy. On the flip side, we can think about unhappiness and ungratefulness. Are those who are ungrateful unhappy? Or are those who are unhappy ungrateful because they feel they have nothing to be grateful for? I suppose one could spend some serious time thinking about and researching this (and I'm sure many already have!), but for me it seems to be one of those chicken-or-the-egg situations. I don't know which one came first, but I do know that both elements are pretty necessary.
Happiness and gratitude are two things that, like the chicken and her egg, go hand in hand with one another. Whichever came first isn't necessarily important; what matters is that they build on one another and they enhance one another. Prager was really onto something in this quote. He really got the idea that gratitude is something that is deeply connected with happiness. Likewise, being ungrateful (or complaining, as he says), is something that relates directly to unhappiness.
I can speak to Prager's point about complaining from first hand experience. I used to be a notorious complainer. Everything was wrong in some way and, even if no one else could see it, I could. I was rarely content because I was always looking for something to moan and groan about. Even if things were going well in my life, I could find a reason to complain. Many times I wouldn't even say it out loud, but it was always there, under the surface, those little thoughts telling me what could be better about every situation. Clearly, all of this complaining and negative analysis didn't make me very happy (nor did it make those spending time with me very happy either!). In fact, it made me downright miserable. I was always looking for the bad. And guess what? I always found it. When you look for something, you find it. When you look for things to complain about, you find them. All of that complaining made me pretty darn unhappy.
These days, I choose to look for the good (which, believe me, isn't always easy!) and I find that I'm a lot happier just because I am grateful for the things around me. Sure, I don't think every situation is perfect, but when I look for the good things in a situation, I find them and I focus on them. I become grateful for them. Most situations/people/things have both good and bad, but I can say with 100% certainty that if you look for the good in them, you will be happier. It takes a lot more effort to be grateful than it does to complain (especially for someone like me, to whom complaining comes naturally!) so I get why a lot of people don't spend more time being grateful. Sometimes it's nearly impossible to snap yourself out of whatever negative mindset you're in and focus on the good, but it's always possible. It's always possible to be grateful for the good things.
Just as I believe happiness is a choice, I believe gratitude is also a choice. It really is quite simply about choosing to focus on the good things instead of the bad. And, if you want to take it one step further, you can focus on the bad things too and realize the reasons you have to be grateful for them. I can say with all certainty that I've had some pretty shitty things happen to me in my life. I can say with even more certainty that I brought many of these things upon myself. I could sit here and whine about them and think about the negative way these things have impacted my life, OR I could be grateful for them. I could look at them and realize that without those things I wouldn't be the person I am today. I wouldn't be as strong or as smart. I wouldn't be as interesting or brave. I wouldn't be anything like the girl I am right now. So today I am grateful for those things -- for all of the things, good and bad, that have made me the person I am today.
Honestly, I don't know whether happiness or gratitude comes first, but what I do know is that, in my life, they work together to make everything better. I am grateful for my happiness. I am happy to have so many things to be grateful for. For those of you living in places that celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful holiday tomorrow. Take some time to be grateful at this time of year (and always!) and you'll find that happiness lies in everything you are thankful for. To read more about what I'm thankful for this year, stop your big turkey-filled belly by Positively Present on Friday and check out the post "100 Things I Am Thankful For." And, of course, I want to know...
What are YOU thankful for this year?
How do happiness and gratitude play a roll in your life?