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Sunday, November 30, 2014

What is Gratitude?

Written by  Ava Barron-Shasho, MSW

Gratitude, thankfulness, gratefulness, or appreciation is a feeling or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive.

I’d like to acknowledge four different views of gratitude.

First is the “What are you grateful for?” When I ask people this they usually list things and abilities. The answers usually include: partner, family, friends, home, job, health, car, and pets. They are usually pretty straightforward. For some it’s the seat on the bus after a long day’s work. I often ask people to dig a little deeper and they usually come up with situations like having “freedom to be who they are on the inside” or having enough food to eat.

The second view of gratitude includes the little unexpected things that pop up in our daily lives. This can include finding a great sale, getting that good parking spot, meeting someone new, or enjoying a fun time with a friend. While these occurrences may seem “simple,” they can have a big impact on our day. Often after one of these occurs the average person goes about their day without any thought to the benefit one just received. We are too busy worrying about the next task on our list or the next problem to tackle. Yet to just stay in the moment and let the air of gratitude linger can be heavenly. Fine food connoisseurs will tell you the value of this is immense. I am not a lover of fine food and I will take a dollar bar of chocolate over the expensive stuff anytime, however I do enjoy watching people indulge themselves with fancy chocolate or a vintage wine or brandy. I watch as they savor each swallow or bite as if it’s liquid gold. They appreciate what it tastes like long after it’s gone.

Then there is gratitude for unanswered prayers. This type of gratitude can have many faces to it. For some, this occurs often and for others it can be fleeting. What do these situations look like? It can be the relationship you dreamed of only to find out later that the person was nothing like you expected. Or the job position you wanted but didn’t get only to find it was eliminated a year later. This list is endless and it is just a matter of “training” to see the evidence to these situations in your life.

Then there is the type of gratitude that reminds us of averted disasters. For some this is the gratitude for protection. Maybe it’s that collusion you just barely avoided on your way to work. How about that speeding ticket that turned into a warning instead. Or the time you felt a lump and feared the worst until the test came back and you were given two thumbs up. I know it’s easy to be grateful the moment it happened, but what about a week, a month, or a year later? Have you gone back to say thanks, or is it out of sight out of mind? We don’t often think of how grateful we are for our spine and all it does for us until our back goes out and we are flat on the floor in pain.

We often think, “That could have been far worse,” or “Now I have a new understanding for people with chronic back pain.” While you may not think about these situations on a daily basis, when they cross your mind there’s a, “Whew! That could have been disastrous.”

So when do you close your eyes and give a whisper of thanks for something? Another day of sobriety? Of for the health of a family member? Or how about when you look in the mirror and can see the reflection of a survivor staring back at you?

Say a few words of appreciation. You will feel good inside... really.


Ava Barron-Shasho, MSW, is a life and relationship coach, certifed by the International Coach Federation, and welcomes your feedback ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

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