A perspective on gratitude

Historically, the Christmas season has always been a favourite of mine. I grew up in Montreal, in the Northern Hemisphere, where winters are long and cold affairs. In the run-up to December 25, there’s something special in the air.

That something special has a lot to do with the anticipation, the excitement. We know the days are getting shorter, but that soon enough we’ll get to the winter solstice… and that we’ll start our long journey toward the summer months once again.

I find Christmas a perfect opportunity to reflect on the past year and look ahead. That’s not different to what many people do worldwide, of course. But what drives these moments of reflection, and what I try to express at this particular time of year, is a feeling of gratitude.

After the sort of year we’ve had and the challenges we faced, to say nothing of the hardship endured by millions globally, it could be argued: “Gratitude, sure. But what for exactly?”

For health and for life, for starters. And for some hope too.

Being grateful can deliver a variety of benefits. Which is a strange thing to write actually – because there’s something uneasy about the idea of “benefitting” from what is, fundamentally, a wonderful feeling of appreciation.

In a world whose pace appears to be increasing, and in an age where we not only want “everything” but we want it “right now”, gratitude demands a step back from the many wants one’s heart inevitably carries. And it puts in sharp focus the everyday battles so many have had to fight during this calamitous year.

Gratitude also demands an appreciation for what beauty life brings, day in day out, irrespective of the hardships we may encounter along the way. It asks for very little, and delivers heaps of joy in return. Over the past few months, I’ve read the most beautiful expressions of joy in my Linkedin feed from people who had every reason to cry.

It helps put everything into perspective.

I came across the following diagram online last year. I’m not sure to which extent all of it is true. But it does come with good credentials, as it’s been compiled by aggregating the results of over forty studies. Looking at this list, I’d actually be happy getting just half the benefits described.

So here I am, on Christmas eve, feeling grateful – indebted even – to so many, for an endless list of reasons. I value everybody’s contribution to my life, and I’m grateful for the opportunities we have to interact and learn from one another.

Thank you, and Merry Christmas to one and all.