About this time last year, I wrote a column on the importance of practicing an attitude of gratitude. While it’s pretty easy to understand that thanksgiving and gratitude go hand in hand, all this talk of gratitude and expressing thanks has got me thinking – how closely linked are gratitude and love?
You know how when you’re thankful for a person or object, you express gratitude? Gratitude is a way of placing value on someone or something. This is similar to what you do when you love: You place value on whatever happens to be the object of your love.
I’m a huge believer that having an attitude of gratitude helps a person to be more joyful (if you don’t believe me, try it)! And, I’m also convinced that the more we learn to show our gratitude for the people and things around us; the more we open ourselves up to love.
Here are three tips if you’re looking to live with more love in your life:
- Keep a gratitude list. Or a journal, or a prayer book. Whatever you call your version, don’t forget to make notes on the people and things for which you’re thankful. It doesn’t have to be every day, but at least once a week make a gratitude note. It can be as simple as “I woke up this morning” (because let’s be honest, the gift of life each day and the ability to get out of bed is something we all take for granted).
- Pay it forward. Doesn’t have to be anything super-elaborate – even the simple act of buying coffee for the girl or guy behind you in the drive-thru lineup can make someone’s day! Send flowers to a friend or significant other on a day chosen at random (i.e., not their birthday, your anniversary, and not Valentine’s Day). Hand write a note of thanks to someone who’s recently impacted your life for the better.
- Take time to give thanks. This is a very difficult thing for many people, myself included. There is something so wonderful about taking time to just be. Having time to yourself, or time reserved for loved ones is an amazing, easy way to see and soak up life’s little blessings. Too often we get caught up in the fast-paced world around us, but I find for myself, it’s those moments – where I’m holding the hand of someone I love instead of my phone, making eye contact with my family and friends rather than staring at a cold computer screen, or putting my feet up and reading a book rather than running around doing work – when I slow down, that I actually have time to think. And when I think, I can’t help but be amazed at all of the blessings in my life. Might take some brain training, to focus on the positive instead of the next item on your to-do list, but trust me, it can be done.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that above items are all directly related to gratitude. Really, I don’t think we can properly love without sharing our gratitude. Both virtues live in our hearts and it’s up to us to express them. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude.”