5 Lessons I Learned About Gratitude From My Grandfather
When you meet someone who is happy, you may assume their life is easier, and they have fewer worries. But, countless times, in observing those who are happy, I’ve had the realization that what makes them happy stems from a high level of gratitude.
Have you heard the analogy of people carrying their biggest problems into a large arena and leaving them there? The gist of the analogy is that if you could peer into anyone’s life to see their problems, would you exchange their problems for yours? The more significant lesson is that if you had a purview into someone else’s life, you probably would gladly keep the problems you are currently experiencing because yours may pale in comparison to someone else. I know this firsthand because my grandfather, who was someone who was incredibly happy, didn’t have anywhere near an easy life, but demonstrated to me how gratitude was the gateway to happiness. Here are five lessons he taught me.
Gratitude Starts Small
Gratitude starts with appreciating the small things. My grandfather, who lived for over 70 years, had the best outlook on life. He would tell us often how grateful he was for each day of his life.
It was interesting to me because my grandfather also suffered many health ailments. He had heart disease and multiple bypass procedures and medical complications throughout his life. Someone in his position could have easily had a different outlook on life. This leads me to the first lesson gramps taught me about gratitude. Be grateful for each moment of your life. Each day that you wake up express gratitude that you are able to get out of the bed and enjoy the day ahead of you.
My grandfather, close to the end of his life, had a heart surgery in which the surgeons said he had a 20% chance of surviving. I was young at the time, but I started to mentally and emotionally prepare for the fact that he might not make it through the surgery. My grandpa knew his chances of making it through the surgery before he went into the operating room. Still, he was optimistic. He was in high spirits as he let us know he loved us and would see us afterward. He survived the surgery, living another six months, surprising the physicians with his optimism, determination, and tenacity.
And this is how I learned my second important lesson about gratitude from my grandfather.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Dark moments are temporary. Even in your darkest moments, when you think it won’t get better, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. My grandfather knew this intimately. He grew up in some tough times. He and my grandmother supported a family of seven. And they did it without a formal college education or a lot of means. But, they found a way to make things work even when it seemed like there wasn’t a way to do so.
He was very entrepreneurial and taught us that as long as you had a mindset of trying and not giving up, you could find your way through any dark moment. Things would always get better even when it didn’t seem as though they would. When I lost my first child, I was devastated. It was if everything went dark in my life. I had no desire to move forward because I felt like life just wasn’t living without my daughter. I was very depressed. And then I had a vivid dream where my grandfather came and told me that things would be okay, and I had to keep moving forward. He told me to lean on my family, and I would be okay. Whatever your spiritual beliefs might be, his words of encouragement got me through one of my darkest and painful moments I have ever experienced. And this is also where I learned about something else which is crucial to your gratitude.
Be grateful for your family. My grandfather was a big believer in family. He was at every celebratory and difficult moment which the family faced. He was a source of emotional support when you needed it and a cheerleader to help you get over the obstacles that you thought might stop you from moving forward. He was always a source of support for us no matter what. He taught me to value our family and to not take them for granted. The family, from gramps’ perspective, was the nucleus of everything. He felt that family was irreplaceable and a critical part of who we are and that we were stronger together than individually.
Writing is Cathartic
Write it down. If you are going through this list of things in which to be grateful and you still feel like you don’t have much to be thankful for, pull out a piece of paper and jot down these things to get started. Here are a couple of things you can write down:
You’re able to breathe comfortably.
You have a place to live.
You have a dog, cat, guinea pig, etc. that brings you joy.
You were happy when (fill in the blank.)
You have someone who loves you unconditionally.
The power of journaling the good in your life helps you realize the many positive things you have in your life. It also makes you appreciate and recognize those things which happen on a daily basis for which you should be grateful. My grandfather was big on telling me to write down my feelings when I was feeling happy and sad. When I went through a particularly difficult end of a relationship in my life, I used writing to power through my feelings of anger, loneliness, frustration, and sadness. It helped me to move forward and this leads to the final lesson I learned from my grandfather.
Be Present Now
Focus forward. It’s hard to be in the present. Everything around you makes you focus instead n the future and what is next. Because of this, we get little time to appreciate the “Now.”
There is a lot of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) you might be feeling. But, this is one of the most important lessons my grandfather taught me, and you should never, ever forget it. Throw out the FOMO and focus on BPN (Be Present Now). Without today, there isn’t a tomorrow. Focus on what is happening now and enjoy it fully. You don’t get to relive the present more than once, so revel in it! You don’t know what tomorrow will bring because each new day brings its own challenges.
“Every time you get upset at something, ask yourself if you were to die tomorrow, was it worth your time being angry?” This will help you put things in perspective and reflect on what’s important i.e., living in the present. These five lessons on gratitude have been lifesavers for me. And hopefully, these five lessons my grandfather taught me can help you have more gratitude in your life too!
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