I met an elderly person who lived alone and had many physical problems and financial challenges. Yet this person was highly upbeat and happy. I wondered how he was able to experience such positive emotions with the difficulties he faced. I asked him about his life experiences and what were the most important lessons he learned about life that I could share with others.
A key point that he told me was, "When something goes well for you, be grateful for it for the rest of your life. I had a happy childhood. My childhood was happy no matter what else happened to me later on. For my entire life I can be grateful for the many things I enjoyed when I was growing up. I can be grateful for all the positive memories my late wife gave me. I can be grateful for the good things that people did for me throughout my life. Some of the people I am grateful towards are no longer alive. But my feelings of gratitude towards them remain."
"But isn't it difficult to keep on feeling grateful for what is no longer here?" I asked him.
"No. Once this becomes your habitual way of thinking it's automatic. It's not hard at all. I've met people who are angry and resentful towards people who are no longer alive. It makes a lot more sense to keep up the positive quality of being grateful."
(From Rabbi Zelig Pliskin's book: THANK YOU! Gratitude: Formulas, Stories, and Insights: Artscroll Publishers)