“In all things we should try to make ourselves be as grateful as possible. For gratitude is a good thing for ourselves, in a manner in which justice, commonly held to belong to others, is not. Gratitude pays itself back in large measure.”SENECA, MORAL LETTERS, 81.19
With gratitude being one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your life and your outlook, I’m kind of surprised it didn’t come up until now in The Daily Stoic book.
Being thankful is a habit that I personally have worked hard to make sure I do regularly. I now make time every single day to be thankful, and it has had an effect on my daily outlook that cannot be understated. In fact — short of the study of stoicism itself — I think that being regularly grateful has been the most impactful habit that I’ve instituted in my life. It just changes everything!
When you take time to consciously and specifically be thankful for the things in your life, including the big things of course but also the small and seemingly-inconsequential things, it changes the way your brain works. It modifies your default reaction to events that come your way. Being regularly in a thankful state (all day, every day) causes you to be more receptive to good things that come your way. It’s almost like it causes more good things to come your way, as though it’s infectious!
Have you ever noticed that people who are on top of the world already seem to continuously have good things and amazing opportunities continue to drop in their laps, again and again? Almost like good luck attracts more good luck? Well part of that is your outlook, and your positivity (or lack thereof). People are attracted to positive emotions — it’s the law of attraction.
The best way to be constantly positive and attract good forces in your life is to be in a constant state of thankfulness. It’s hard at first, but then it snowballs, and you find yourself welcoming even difficult events in your life as a chance to prove yourself through struggle. Before long, you’re just flowing through your life, grateful and thankful for everything. Other people can sense that, and they’re drawn to it.
This hits on one of the key points in Seneca’s quote above — that gratitude pays itself back. Gratitude IS the reward for being grateful. It’s its own reward. Being thankful all the time pays dividends to the person who’s being thankful. It’s a perpetual engine, in that sense.