Gratitude was a way of life for D. Gary Young. He often said that a grateful person is a happy person and that challenges and setbacks are just opportunities to grow. Yet he had many reasons to be embittered—by the poverty he experienced as a youth, by the parentage of a stern man, by the accident that almost took his life, and by his long and hard road to recovery.
As we approach Thanksgiving, we may be tempted to practice gratitude for only that one day, but it’s possible—some would say even necessary—to cultivate deeper gratitude, the kind that imbues the past with peace and the future with hope.
Here are five tips for cultivating gratitude even in difficult times, as taught by Gary:
Forgive and Thank
“We beat up on ourselves,” Gary said, “but everyone makes mistakes. Yet we struggle to forgive our own mistakes and those of others. The blend of Forgiveness has a fragrance that stimulates the mind to move past the trauma, problems, or victimization. You do not need the other person to be present because this is an inner adjustment on your part. Forgive that person or yourself and be thankful for the experience and the lesson it taught you. Inhale and apply Forgiveness while going through the process and repeat as often as necessary.”
Adjust Your Paradigm
He also said, “We often spend our energy locked into lack, limitation, and unproductive choices. But life is a grand journey and can be whatever we choose it to be.” Be thankful for that.
Dream, and be Glad You Can
Gary thanked God for the gifts of dreaming and choosing his own thoughts. It took a long time for him to thank God for the accident that put him in the wheelchair in a paralyzed body riddled with pain, but he eventually did. Then he started thanking God for that gift, and his dreams became real.
See the “Clouds” for What They Are
In 2008 Gary said, “Life can change from moment to moment just as nature changes. As the clouds move in our lives, they obscure the vision of the greatness and beauty that is there before us. We are so programmed to stare into the clouds of our minds, we start reflecting on the past; and before we realize it, we are feeling the downward spiraling effect of our attitude and energy.
“But the clouds also bring snow and rain to cleanse the atmosphere and refresh the air we breathe, nourish the land so we can grow our crops, and replenish the streams. Without those clouds, we would not have the nourishment needed to sustain ourselves.
“When it is hot and dry in the summer, we pray for rain, which comes with the clouds, and we rejoice. In the winter we pray for snow, as it comes only with the clouds, and again we rejoice. Why? Because we know what the outcome will be when it rains and snows.
“However, when clouds obscure our minds, we retreat into fear and, in most cases, make unproductive choices that we later regret.”
Realize the Impact Your Attitude has on Others
It may be tempting to sink into one’s self in the middle of trials, but the only way that that myopia will not affect others is if you live alone on a desert island. As Gary said: “When you smile, the world smiles. When you laugh, the world laughs. When you change little things inside of you, the world changes. When you are happy, the world is happy. When you feel love, the world is loved. On the other hand, when you cry, the world cries for you. When you hurt, the world hurts. When you are depressed, the world is depressed.” He thanked God daily that the little differences he made each day could make huge differences in the lives of many tomorrow.
“If we make the effort—no matter how small or big—to cultivate gratitude daily, for the big things and the little things, we are ultimately happier and more at peace.”