Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others

Gratitude is the feeling and expression of thankfulness for the actions of others that are costly to them and beneficial to us. By definition, gratitude requires humility. It requires us to admit we have been the recipient of something we did not deserve. And it calls us to admit there are no entirely self-made men or women.

1Gratitude assigns worth to those who rightly deserve it

Whether I am thanking a parent, a spouse, a veteran, a teacher, a policeman, or a mentor who has invested into my life, my response of gratitude to their action gives the praise and worth to those who rightly deserve it.

2Gratitude directs attention to what we already have

Gratitude always requires our attention to be focused on the good things we already possess. It calls us to notice our blessings and take greater appreciation of them. As a result, our eyes are turned away from the things that are fostering the discontent in our hearts.

3Gratitude improves our overall well-being

Scientific studies over and over again confirm what we already know to be true: Grateful people are happier people. Grateful people routinely report increased well-being, better health, healthier lifestyles, increased optimism, and a more positive outlook on life (source). Additionally, those who display a high level of gratitude are much more likely to have below-average levels of materialism (source).

4Gratitude is not a result of our circumstances

I have lived my entire life inside the United States, but have led numerous groups of people to third-world countries. I can attest first-hand that gratitude is not a result of circumstances. I have met grateful people in some of the poorest neighborhoods in our world and I have met grateful people in some of the richest neighborhoods in our country. I have also met ungrateful people in both. Gratitude is a decision and a discipline–not a response.

5Gratitude opens the door to contentment

Gratitude helps us better understand our place in the world. It pushes our praise to those who rightly deserve it. It causes us to focus on the good things we already have regardless of our present circumstances. It improves our well-being in almost every regard. As a result, it is the surest pathway to contentment.