During a two-month internship in Brazil, I had difficulty developing feelings of gratitude for the very things that made my experience so amazing.
As I stood under the pathetic, lukewarm trickle of the shower, struggling to rid my hair of the last of the fruity shampoo suds, I was struck with something. Sure, it was cold. Sure, I missed Mexican food, pizza that always came with cheese on it (whether you asked for it or not), driving in traffic that didn’t look like a mass evacuation of the city, and understanding people the first time they spoke. Of course I missed my friends and my family, movies without English subtitles, and being able to leave home without drawing out an extensive plan on a paper map.
But if I hadn’t experienced all of that, I also wouldn’t have experienced Brazil. I wouldn’t have gone on cable cars to the peaks of mountains, eaten dragonfruit and jabuticaba (a fruit that grows straight on the trunk of the tree!), had tiny marmosets walking alongside me, or spent hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic with my husband making the weirdest noises we could to keep ourselves entertained. I wouldn’t have seen graffiti artists paint, eaten rice and beans every day, or been able to work with archival researchers at a Brazilian university, all while slowly but surely improving my Portuguese. And my internship wasn’t even over yet. There was still plenty of time to experience more of Brazil, make more memories. What possible reason did I have for feeling sorry for myself?
Unfortunately, the reason is this—human nature. As English author Aldous Huxley once wrote, “Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” I confess that I often see this reflected in my own behavior, and although I know that I am sabotaging my own happiness, it is difficult for me to change my perspective. If you can identify at all with me (and with the rest of the human population for that matter), you may need some extra help to develop an attitude of gratitude. So how can you give yourself a you-need-to-be-grateful kick in the pants, you ask?
Slow down and take a moment to cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving. It’s that simple. As President Thomas S. Monson explains in his talk “The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” “Regardless of our circumstances, each of us has much for which to be grateful if we will but pause and contemplate our blessings.” Make a list of blessings, thank someone for their friendship or service, or look back on past difficulties that have been overcome. We all have something to be thankful for.
But President Monson points out that we can’t stop there. “A grateful heart, then,” he explains, “comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude.”
We must continue this practice of expressing gratitude daily, even moment-by-moment, so that we become truly grateful people who look for blessings in times of trial, tender mercies in crisis, and angels amid crowds. Let us seek to cultivate this attitude of gratitude in our lives, that we may always see the light in the darkness.
Read or watch President Thomas S. Monson’s talk “The Divine Gift of Gratitude.”
—Faith Sutherlin Blackhurst, Mormon Insights
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Find more insights
Read Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin’s address “Live in Thanksgiving Daily,” in which he explains that our happiness is based on our thankfulness, not our money, social status, or career.
Read an article by Ronald Esplin to find out how the early Saints celebrated “Utah’s First Thanksgiving” in the midst of trials.
Watch “Come What May, and Love It” to learn how to cultivate gratitude by keeping an eternal perspective.
Read Alissa Holm’s Mormon Insights article, which explains that those who are appreciative tend to be more mature and successful in life.
I love this article. I think being grateful improves our sensitivity to our “happy switch” and allows us to flip it. Heavenly Father doesn’t command us to be grateful because he wants our gratitude. He commands us to be grateful because it enlarges our agency and allows us to have joy.
I love this. Isn’t it incredible that something as simple as being grateful can make such an impact on how we see things. Weird as it seems I’m grateful that gratitude is a choice rather than a natural occurrence because then it allows me to use my agency to increase my own happiness.
Keeping a spirit of gratitude is such an easy thing to overlook, yet it makes such a difference in our lives. It’s good to remember that even when things aren’t all that great or could be better, we still have much to be grateful for. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences!