Gratitude is an emotional state that is as odd as it is transient. It can make you feel uncomfortable at the same time you are elated. It can make you swim in a river of guilt while your heart is dancing with sudden joy. It places you in a mindful position of acknowledging that some or all or the credit of that new wonderful moment in your life belongs to someone else.

"Gratitude is the sign of noble souls." - Aesop

We usually run our days with our mental hands on the wheels, acting like everything is under our control. But moving into a state of gratitude reminds us that our path in life is not all directly due to ourselves. When gratitude arrives, we savor the joy of that thing that just appeared or the event that unexpectedly happened. And within the same heartbeat, we become mindful of the connection of that moment to someone or something else. What just happened was a gift, a gift that makes us grateful. Now often that connection is not problematic; we look up, and that “string” of connection leads to a friend or family member. Those are the times when the feelings of gratitude are easy and lead our hearts to express thanks. Of course, the speed and noise of life make us sometimes forget, but the original intention was honestly there.

But when that string goes to a place we wanted to forget or a person we do not care to engage, the awkward emotions start to swirl. And yet the obligation of expressing our gratitude remains…we have to do it. We have to say “Thanks” to that dark person or place in our lives just as freely as we would a loved one. Why? Because gratitude makes us happy. The gift that was freely given to you, regardless of the motive or source, made you happy. And happiness is all that anyone wants in life.

One of my favorite TED talks is by Brother David Steindl-Rast, and his simple message about having a constant state of gratitude is core to my walk through life:

“There are many things for which we cannot be grateful, but there is no moment for which we cannot be grateful, because in every moment, even difficult ones, we have the opportunity to do something.” — Brother David Steindl-Rast

Being mindful of gratitude will not make it any easier or more permanent. You will still forget the occasional “Thanks” for the kind deed from a friend and having to say “thanks” for an unexpected gift from someone who wronged you will still be painfully hard. But if you can just be aware of the moment for just another beat or breath, you can make that feeling of gratitude resonate more in your heart.


J.D. Nolen is a physician who expresses his creativity through writing. His book, Unlock Your Creativity, is now available on Amazon. You can follow him via his blog or on Twitter.

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