Yet, this is a very limited understanding of gratitude. Gratitude in its fullest sense is a state of being that is forward thinking, focused on the present and the future, on the next moment.
Gratitude holds within it the twin ideas of appreciation and contentment. Appreciation for what is, and being content with whatever situation one finds oneself in. These two notions suggest being fully present in the here and now.
Certainly, there can be a sense of gratefulness towards someone for what they may have done for you. There may be a sense of gratefulness for something that has already happened – the beautiful sunrise you witnessed at dawn for instance, or perhaps the smile of the person across the aisle in the bus as you travelled to work.
Anticipatory gratitude, however, is a state of mind that approaches life with joy, love and contentment. Indeed, the etymological root of the word content suggests this. It comes from two Latin words; com meaning with or together, and tenere, meaning to hold. Perhaps this is where we get the phrase “hold it together,” which has the idea of being at ease with the situation, or accepting things as they are without reacting inappropriately, or unhelpfully.
Hence, if we approach life with this sense of gratitude, then we may just find that our anticipation, even expectation, that life is enjoyable, abundant, and fulfilling will be exactly that. We will get what we look forward to. We will get what we show gratitude for.
Easy said – or written. How do we do this? How do we practise gratitude before the event or situation? There are many suggestions out there on how to do this, here are just a few:
- Watch for the things we take for granted, then notice how amazing these really are.
- Approach others with an expectation that the interaction will be helpful to both.
- Look for the opportunity in every situation to find joy, happiness, or a new learning.
- Become content. We all experience sadness, as well as happiness. It is possible to be content whether it is sadness or happiness we are experiencing at that moment.
- Keep a journal dedicated to gratefulness. The more you notice and record what you are grateful for, the more your mind, and soul, will take on anticipatory gratitude.
- Smile at and with others.