Gratitude is an emotional experience that may arise in us spontaneously, swelling our hearts with love and appreciation, and contributing to our sense of connection – to people close to us, to our community, to the many things that ultimately ground us and infuse our lives with meaning.
Gratitude is also a practice that can be cultivated intentionally. It is a powerful antidote to the false sense of separateness from others that our fiercely individualistic society can instill in us. For all our glorification of independence, we humans are not autonomous beings, we are not meant to be. We are interdependent instead, meaning that while there is much we can accomplish by flying solo, the most meaningful achievements in life, those that create a sense of purpose and deepest kind of joy, come about when we are part of a greater whole, embedded in and supported by communities we care about.
We need to cultivate gratitude, especially now, when the world around us is so intent on highlighting our differences and when, instead of coming together in the experience of shared humanity, divisions of us versus them are nurtured at seemingly every turn.
Gratitude is good for our relationships, our mental health, and our communities. Try to find something you are grateful for in your everyday life, and do that not only on those days when the sun is shining and your heart feels light, but also when everything feels heavy and dark.