The Importance of Practicing Gratitude, Giving, and Celebrating Your Successes and Achievements in Your Pursuit of Happiness
 In this article, we'll expand on this and discuss practicing such an attitude.

Practicing an Attitude of Gratitude

We've defined gratitude as a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation for something or someone, and living with an attitude of gratitude as a realistic appreciation of life. While this can sometimes be a challenging thing to do, the rewards of living life gratefully are numerous.

Some people confuse being grateful with groveling. Not so! To grovel means to "act in an abject manner, as in great fear or utter servility," or "to lie or crawl with the face downward and the body prostrate, especially in abject humility, fear, etc." ( To grovel is not the same as being thankful – thankfulness is uplifting, while groveling is debasing.

Take the example of receiving a small, but unexpected, holiday bonus from your employer. Someone with a negative, ungrateful attitude might think, "Wow, this is lame! I know the company has enough money to give us bigger bonuses than this. They're just greedy, keeping all the cash for themselves."

A grateful person will likely see the gift as a wonderful surprise, a stroke of luck, or a nod of appreciation from the company. A grateful recipient will feel worthy of the gift without being arrogant, and may express sincere appreciation to the giver in a gracious and dignified manner.  They will be far happier and more satisfied with the bonus than the ungrateful or the groveling recipient.

A person used to groveling may see the unexpected bonus as a great gift, but unlike the grateful recipient, the groveling recipient will feel unworthy of the gift. Any desire to express appreciation to the giver is based on some type of fear, such as a need to reassure themselves the gift was actually meant for them and wasn't some type of mistake. Imagine feeling as though you are completely undeserving of all the good things in life which come your way! 

The giver's intent does not necessarily dictate the value the recipient feels at the gesture. For the recipient, the attitude with which the gift is received gives the gift its ultimate value. You've probably heard it said, "It's the thought that counts" in regard to gift-giving. That is only true if the recipient feels that way. Some people place greater value on actual objects (sounds rather ungrateful, doesn't it?). Typically, such folks are never satisfied.

As you may have discerned from the above information, attitude greatly determines mindset. Additionally, attitude and mindset feed one another, so the happier you think you are, the happier you will actually be. Remember, your brain will take as "fact" whatever you believe to be true. Again, we are not talking about a "pie-in-the-sky" attitude, but a realistic appreciation of the positive aspects of daily life.

A simple yet effective exercise that helps end your day on a positive note can be done right before turning in for the night. Think of at least one event or gift you've received that day, and take a moment to sincerely feel gratitude for it. If you do this exercise at least once daily, with sincerity, you will begin to identify more to be thankful for, as well as noticing more wonderful life gifts of all shapes and sizes coming your way.

If you are in the habit of saying daily prayers, you may already have a process of giving thanks for blessings. If you find yourself rushing automatically through your daily prayers (it happens to just about everyone sometime!), make a conscious effort to slow down and truly feel your gratitude as you express it through prayer.

Being a Good Winner

You've probably heard the saying, "There's nothing worse than a sore loser." That may not be entirely correct – have you ever been subjected to a gloating winner?

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Merriam-Webster defines gloat as "to show in an improper or selfish way that you are happy with your own success or another person's failure." In layman's terms, gloating is "rubbing someone's face in it," whether "it" represents your triumph or another's demise.

Take, for example, someone who gets a sought-after promotion. A "good" winner will show excitement, gratitude, and/or justifiable pride at his accomplishment, but will not brag excessively or point out the losses or failures of others. Celebration is fine, and to be expected when one succeeds. Taking it to the extreme, however, is not gracious, classy, or kind. If you don't mind being seen as a boor, then by all means, gloat! You will find, however, graciousness will open more doors for you, and be ultimately more enriching than bragging.

Something else to avoid is false modesty. False modesty is a fervent and overdone downplaying of one's accomplishments. Not only is it phony and transparent, it's ungracious and lacking in class.

Giving Back

Giving back is one way to increase happiness and draw positive life experiences toward yourself. We are not talking about volunteering merely "for show," but sincere efforts to help others.

Such efforts need not be grandiose. There are little things each of us can do every day to help others. From simple gestures, such as holding a door for someone, to volunteering at a local non-profit one day a month, even small acts of generosity and kindness have far-reaching positive effects.

Being thoughtful of others is simpler to do than many people imagine. All it really takes is the ability to observe the needs of those around you, the desire and resources to help, and the will to take action by providing assistance. Many people instantly think of donating time or money to organized charities when they think of ways to "give back," but giving back in simple ways is very helpful, as well as satisfying. Often, assistance may be a kind ear or shoulder to cry on instead of something tangible, such as a ride to work or a loan of money. Such kindnesses can mean the world to someone feeling isolated or depressed.

To increase your opportunities for doing good deeds, begin by paying attention to your friends, family, and/or fellow congregation members or associates. Listen to comments they make regarding difficulties or concerns for clues as to what they may need help with. People typically don't want to ask for help with "everyday" things, thinking they should be able to handle such responsibilities on their own. When your friend says, "I have been feeling so run down lately. I just can't seem to get caught up on housework. It's so frustrating!" she's not really asking for help, but she'd probably enjoy a bit of breathing room in her schedule. Your friend may protest at first if you offer to help with chores, but be gently persistent. Ultimately, your friend will benefit on many levels from having the dishes done and the floor vacuumed (neither of which takes a great deal of your time), and you will know you've eased someone's daily burden at least a little.

Doing kind deeds for accolades, or with the expectation of reward, may involve the same actions, but the meaning and reward will not be the same as it would if the kindness was done for no other reason than helping another, because you care about their welfare (this is called altruism). Granted, we are automatically helping ourselves when we help others, but that isn't the real meaning of the act. The recipient may receive full benefit from our thoughtful actions, but we're cheating ourselves out of the complete reward by expecting it.

You needn't be a saint to be altruistic. As mentioned previously, altruism really relies on your reasons for being kind; if your motivation for helping others is that you truly enjoy making others' lives better in some way, you are being altruistic. People who wish to achieve more due to greed, however, diminish themselves as well as their "giving" actions. The recipient may not detect or care about the difference – it won't necessarily affect them, as we discussed earlier in this article. The prize-seeking givers are truly just cheating themselves.

Think of the rewards for doing good deeds as lovely surprises that come along just when you need them. By not looking for them, like a wage you're owed for work performed, they'll surprise you with their timing and brilliance, and you'll reap their full benefit.

Achieving More

The desire to achieve more in life can have a variety of motivations. As you may imagine, some motivations are more self-serving than others.

Achieving more in life does not have to mean material wealth or possessions alone. Rather, achieving more is a richer experience if one strives for intangible achievements and enjoys the process as much, or more than, the end result.  This section will focus on intangible achievements, although often, tangible and intangible rewards are intertwined.

Achieving personal goals increases feelings of self-worth, which gives one the courage to pursue other goals and challenges. No matter what our stage in life, everyone benefits from some sort of goal or challenge. Often, events which seem like "the end of the world" to us are actually opportunities for growth and achievement. Again, we're not talking about meaningless "positive thinking" mantras here, but actual understanding of and appreciation for the growth opportunities as well as the result of the challenge, whether it turns out beneficially or not. (Remember, failure is an opportunity for learning!)

An example of the type of challenge life might "force" upon us is dealing with the death of a spouse or beloved partner. In one very brief moment, your life is changed forever. Suddenly, the world is no longer familiar; it is fraught with unknown and frightening challenges. Even if you're prepared on some level for a loved one's passing, the actual moment when the reality of their absence becomes horribly real is devastating. Your first thought may be, "How am I going to make it through this?"

Challenges strengthen our inner resolve and increase our self-confidence. It is perfectly normal to fear failure or be convinced you won't triumph over such an enormous and emotionally devastating challenge. But life does indeed go on, and drowning in grief forever does no one any good.

A more cheerful example of achieving more is returning to school. Imagine one of your long-held desires has been to return to college and finish the degree you began many years ago. Since it's been so long since you were a student, you're quite nervous about doing so. You wonder if you're up to the challenge of studying, homework, and going to classes daily, and if you'll be able to keep up with the demands of a full-time college curriculum.

Despite your fears, you begin your quest by enrolling in a community college, taking a few classes to get back into the routine of school. After a successful quarter or two (achievement), you apply for, and are accepted to, a university.

It's likely you'll be even more nervous this time! But now you've had one success in this area, you'll have a desire to succeed more, and that desire will outweigh your fear of attempting something greater. You may have moments of doubt, fear, or despair on the way to your goal, but ultimately, your desire for achievement (and the sweet taste of success) will outweigh your trepidations.

Once you've achieved your original academic goal (perhaps begun a career relating to your education), it would be easy to cross "education" off your list and think, "That's done, now I've got the education thing covered." Well, yes and no. Information is always changing and increasing; it's easy to be left behind in the knowledge department, especially in today's technology-based world. You needn't formally return to school (it can be quite expensive), but you can cultivate the desire to continue to learn by reading and researching information on your chosen subject.

Focusing on material achievements is perfectly normal and necessary, but as we've mentioned, it is inadvisable to concentrate exclusively on tangible achievements. We all need income, food, clothing, and shelter, and it's perfectly okay to focus on improving such things. Who doesn't have a dream car, wardrobe, or home in mind? True enrichment comes through achievements of both the material and spiritual kind.