Gratitude: GRITS Vol. 1

What if I told you there was a way to improve your health and happiness, in less than five minutes a day, for free, without getting out of bed? Would you believe me?  I know it must sound like I’m marketing some snake-oil “miracle fat-burning dietary supplement”, or trying to get you to join my Ponzi scheme, but this is the real deal y’all! Gratitude sustains us!

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” Marcus Aurelius

Happiness Within

It’s a common misconception that our happiness comes from a set of external circumstances; a belief that our surroundings affect our sense of satisfaction more than our mental habits do. This is only true if you allow it to be. Without a doubt, ensuring certain physical needs, such as shelter and food, can have a great impact on your emotional well-being. However, even in the most dire situations, there is a powerful tool to boost our health and happiness, and carry us through the hardships of life. It is a simple act with incredible transformative powers: Gratitude.

Embracing Challenges

It’s no secret that life is full of challenges, and that the world can be a cruel, barbarous place at times. Too often we resort to self-pity, measuring the quality of our lives based on our struggles, ignoring the overwhelming good. I’m not recommending blind optimism, naivete, or placidity. Nor am I suggesting that anyone should accept persecution, oppression, subjugation, exploitation, or injustice. Instead, I propose an accurate assessment of one’s well-being. I urge you to treasure the little things that make you happy, the same way we dwell on every single little thing that is upsetting. I challenge you to appreciate the present, as opposed to living in the past.

It’s been said that gratitude turns what we have into enough, and I couldn’t agree more. A quick inventory of our situation can serve as a reminder of how wonderful our lives truly are. There are scores of things we take for granted which act as the unsung heroes of our daily lives. For example, consider the good fortune you have to even be reading this. You have the mental capacity for literacy. Your vision works. You have access to an education. You have access to a computer, the electricity to power said computer, and the internet! While we may take these things for granted, in a time when 46% of the global population (or 3.485 billion people) lives on less than $5.50 per day, having a computer or smart device is a luxury, and places us firmly in the category of the privileged.

The Best Time to Be Alive

Arguably, this is the best time to be alive, and we should act accordingly. Over 1 billion fewer people are living in extreme poverty than there were in 1990. War has decreased globally. The global literacy rates have tripled in the past century. We have access to a better variety and quality of food, and occupy more luxurious homes, (think A/C, water heaters, flush toilets, lightbulbs, sinks) than any royalty of centuries past. We have access to better healthcare and hygiene products as well. If you can reasonably argue that we have a better quality of life than the kings of old, it stands to reason that we definitely have lots to be grateful for.


If you’re having trouble getting started, I assembled a list of things which I feel deserve VIP status in our hearts and minds (in no particular order). I could go on, ad nauseum, about each of the things below, and why I think they’re worth raving about, but I’ll spare you the minutiae.

I am grateful for:
  • Refrigeration
  • Socks and underwear
  • Air Conditioning
  • Plastic
  • Ice
  • Flush toilets
  • Grocery stores
  • Health
  • Public Safety
  • Toothbrushes
  • Electricity
  • Quality shoes
  • Elastic
  • Deodorant
  • Nature’s majesty
  • Having a home
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Nail clippers
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • X-rays
  • Premade soaps
  • Zippers
  • I ate today
  • I ate yesterday
  • I’m going to eat tomorrow
  • The kindness of strangers
  • Family and friends
  • Matches
  • Mattresses
  • Antibiotics
  • Living in a time when parasites aren’t a threat to my health
  • Corrective lenses
  • Modern stoves/ovens
  • Toilet paper
  • Freedom
  • Internet
  • Antacids
  • Headache medicine
  • Recorded music
  • Bug spray
  • Indoor plumbing
  • Water heaters
  • Employment
  • Potable water

There are countless other concepts and circumstances to be endlessly grateful for which don’t fit neatly into bullet points, but one would be remiss to disregard. However, I’m confident that by now you have a better idea of how gratitude can benefit you and how you can begin to introduce it into your daily habits.

Gratitude Sustains Us

In closing, I leave you with a quote from a man who experienced the power of applying gratitude to appalling circumstances. In his 5 ½ years as a prisoner of war in the infamous Hanoi Hilton, (2 of which were spent in solitary confinement), Lieutenant Commander John McCain was beaten and tortured daily, sometimes hourly. He suffered horrific injuries which, compounded by torture and insufficient medical treatment, left him unable to raise his arms above his head. In spite of his suffering at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors, he is said to have come to the conclusion that, while he couldn’t change his circumstances, he could change his own behavior, and began searching for ways to make solitary confinement tolerable. Adopting an attitude of gratitude brought McCain back from the brink of taking his own life.

Here’s McCain on gratitude: “When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.”  “It is your character, and your character alone, that will make your life happy or unhappy.”

Thanks again for reading! Coming up next is Resilience! Tune in next Thursday for a look at what resilience means to us, and how it can benefit you! Additionally, we’ve got another awesome coloring sheet, yet again designed by our very own Rachel Pannell! You can post your finished product in the comments of the Facebook post, or email them directly to me at, I’m looking forward to seeing everybody’s art! 

–Deen Howell

About the Author

Deen Howell

I was born and raised at Heart O' the Hills. I enjoy all things outdoorsy, playing and writing music, jiu-jitsu, muay thai, marksmanship, yoga, meditation, cooking, writing, and astronomy. I'm really excited to be part of the Heart O' the Hills team, and looking forward to many summers of excellence!

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