It seems to me that we should stop talking about gratitude and start focusing on appreciation. It is a small shift, but with a real difference. Gratitude is about the feeling in me evoked by something outside of myself. That means it is about me and not really about that other thing, even though it appears to be. And it carries the connotation that I am somehow lucky (meaning undeserving) of that good thing. Gratitude has a moralistic undertone.
Appreciation, on the other hand, is not about me. It is about the qualities of the other thing that make it a good thing. It is not about the feeling evoked in me, but the recognition of the qualities of the thing outside me. There is no implied moralistic tone with it. Appreciation is recognizing the value in something, whether it is within myself or in the outside world.
Every day we wake up to a new day with the gift of conscious awareness. We can direct our attention wherever we wish. This is the freedom of being alive: choosing what we allow ourselves to be conscious about. We need not manhandle that consciousness and make it into something. We merely direct it one way or another and notice what comes into it.
All of our current reality is available to us. The quality of our lives is determined by how we use this one guaranteed aspect of being alive: being able to be aware of what we direct our attention toward. It is not about positive thinking or illusional optimism. It is about knowing that within any reality there are gains and challenges, gifts and losses. It is about being a true witness to our complex circumstances and inner experience and doing the best with what life deals us.
We can appreciate big things and small. We can appreciate people and things. We can marvel at the complex way that life insists on living itself. That people keep trying and that circumstances keep throwing us curve balls. It’s ok. We will dodge some and engage some and put our hearts into our lives and make what we can of them. Sometimes we can feel wonder about what we notice and it does not need to be about ourselves. It can just be noticing.