Gratitude is the salt of life. Gratitude is what makes life beautiful and worth living. Being grateful makes you happy. Why? Because gratitude is seeing the glass half full. Or even better, you see the glass full of half liquid, half air.
Gratitude makes you appreciate having a bus to go places instead of bitching about having to take the bus or the bus being late.
Unhappy people are ungrateful. They compare what they think they have to what they think they should have. They compare what they see as their reality to their expectations.
As Mark Manson calls it, they are entitled.From The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
Unhappy people believe their dreams are owed to them
Expectations are creations of the mind. They are imagined things that have an existence only in the ether of thoughts.
It is harder to see it, but what we call reality is also a creation of the mind.
Example: You have a sweater on
You feel good because the sweater keeps you warm and comfy
You feel bad because that sweater is old, worn out, or out of fashion
This old sweater makes you feel good because of the fond memories it recalls
This old sweater makes you feel bad because of the bad memories it recalls
This can be a great sweater or a terrible sweater.
Same sweater, different perspectives, different realities.
The only true fact is that you have a sweater on. That's the crude reality. Everything else, good or bad, exists only in your mind.
Facts are too many to be handled right. So we cherry-pick facts and assemble them into a neat description. We also filter them out accordingly to processing habits and other influences.
That process happens naturally because our mind has its own reward system for matching facts in our heads. We feel good when people agree with us, right ? But the feeling is unpleasant when people disagree with us.
The same happens inside the brain (only in Brain 3 actually) at blinding speed a million times a day.
- When a thought agrees with another thought, we feel good.
- When an observation agrees with an expectation, we feel good.
- When there is a disagreement, a.k.a. a mismatch, frustration ensues.
By the way, if you want to better understand what is going on when all that thinking happens in your head, read How to make better use of your brain
The brain is a thought-agreement seeking machine. This is because reaching imagined goals such as eating food led to the survival of the species. The main difference between humans and most animals is that their brain can create goals beyond eating food, like having a fast red car or long blond hair.
Happy people are happy despite they got the red car or the blond hair. They are happy to have a car or to have hair. They can be happy without the car and without any hair.
Ultimate inner peace is attained by ultimate detachment to anything. Nothing can bother you because there is nothing you cling to.
Gratitude is in between. You like what you have and forget what you lack.
The same way your brain can be trained to do math, drive a car, or read a book, it can be trained to appreciate things and be grateful.