Reality Check: The Actions of Gratitude

Gratitude helps.
When we shift our outlook to one of gratitude, that shift may also help to move us toward a more satisfying, and indeed, a more grateful life. Adopting an “attitude of gratitude” also helps to make life more pleasant for those around us.
Even in these troubled pandemic times, there is still so much to be grateful for.
But what if you find it difficult to feel grateful, even though you know you “should”? There’s an aspect of Dr. Glasser’s choice theory that just might help.
Choice theory suggests that different parts of our behaviour, such as thinking, feeling, actions, are connected in a specific hierarchy. For example, while it is difficult to change or control our feelings directly, it is relatively easy to control our actions.
Even when we like to blame our actions on “my feelings made me do it,” in most circumstances, we are capable of choosing. For example, when feeling frustrated, we can choose to throw something or we can choose to walk away. How do I know that?
Think about different situations. If we feel frustrated at work, but want to keep our job, we likely won’t let temper take over. But at home or when dealing with someone less powerful than us, watch out! If we can choose action depending on the situation, the implication is that we have some control, isn’t it?
The helpful part is that our actions affect our feelings. Although it’s hard to directly control our feelings, we can influence them through our actions.
Thus, if you find it difficult to feel grateful, but you want to have that feeling, there’s a way to do it. Act as if you feel grateful.
What would you do differently if you did feel genuinely grateful? Would you smile more? Would you pick up the phone and congratulate someone? Would you reach out and offer to do something for someone? Would you write in a gratitude journal? Would you tell someone, “I’m grateful that you are in my life”?
Those are all actions that don’t depend on what you are feeling. You can do them, whether you feel gratitude or not. And doing the actions—acting as if you feel grateful—may be just the ticket to lead you to feeling grateful. In other words, grateful actions can lead to genuinely grateful feelings.
I can almost hear some of you questioning, “Isn’t that dishonest?” Isn’t it wrong to demonstrate an action that I don’t truly feel? Isn’t it wrong to tell someone I’m grateful for them when I’m not sure that I feel it? Even if I’m pretty sure it’s true?
Well, I would never suggest that you do something you believe to be dishonest based on a blog post! That would be foolhardy, indeed. If that’s your assessment, it’s a valid one. Choose your actions based on what you believe to be right.
On the other hand, if you would like to experience a genuine feeling of gratitude but you can’t quite get there, this is a suggestion. An experiment. Unless you believe that it will do some kind of harm, is it worth giving it a try?
As always, it’s your choice.
What do you think?

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