What can myths teach us about gratitude?
You may have heard of the Midas touch before, either in songs, in passing or from the myth itself directly. I myself for a long time interpreted the Midas touch to be a good thing. Everything you touch turns to gold… simple right? Well if you read up about the myth the reality is it turns out to actually be more like a curse for King Midas, a curse that I argue could have been avoided if Midas practised gratitude.
The story of King Midas is a myth about the tragedy of avarice (extremely strong desire for money and possessions) it shows us the potential downside for not appreciating what you have in the present moment. It's an important lesson because ultimately, no matter how successful, free and fulfilled you become in life, it means nothing if you can’t sit back and smell the roses, it's all too easy to compare yourself to others or to become a slave to your own desires, making you perpetually pissed off that you aren’t there just yet.
Obviously, we are massive advocates for taking action and trying to better ourselves but as Midas would attest, this is all completely redundant if you can’t appreciate all there is to appreciate.
Midas was a king way back in the day in the country of Phrygia (now known as Turkey). Seemingly, at the time he had all you could wish for, plenty of power and esteem, a fancy palace with all the trimmings shared with a beautiful daughter. Despite his great wealth Midas thought his great source of happiness came from attaining more gold, he was obsessed, often he could be found covered in gold or in his castle counting his golden coins.
Long story short, one day Dionyssus, the God of Wine and Festivity rolled through Midas’ kingdom and Midas ended up helping one of his companions along the way. Dionyssus, grateful for the king's kindness, wanted to repay the favour and promised to grant Midas any wish. Midas, not having the smarts to wish for infinite wishes, thought for a while before saying ‘I wish that everything I touch becomes gold’.
The following day Midas began putting his new ability to the test running around his swanky palace turning everything from chairs to bathtubs into gold. At first, the king was elated, all his dreams had come true. He then began to go about his day but came into trouble, the bread he tried to eat turned to gold and was inedible, the rose he tried to smell turned to gold in his hands, the smell dissipating before he had the chance to enjoy it. The penny started to drop and fear began to set in just as his daughter entered the room. Panicked and tearful, Midas rushed over to his daughter, hugged her and turned her into a golden statue.
Midas had all that he had ever desired, infinite gold, but with it had lost all that he should have appreciated all along.
In the ancient myth, Midas was able to atone for his mistakes and everything he touched returned to his previous state and Midas lived out his years as a generous king grateful and appreciative of all the wonderful things in his life.
If Midas regularly practised gratitude and appreciated all that he had maybe his wish wouldn’t have resulted in such a disaster.
This story is so applicable to modern life. As a collective we human beings are constantly striving for the next best thing and comparing ourselves to others, stopping ourselves from appreciating what we have now. And this is very easily done, there are so many shiny objects to chase and for lots of people their future aspirations are what drive them forwards, however this, isn’t the issue. The problem comes when you can’t appreciate what you have in the present moment, when you can’t love the process of building towards something in the future, when you are unhappy right now but tell yourself you will be happy in the future when you achieve your dreams and aspirations all the while depriving yourself of appreciation in the present moment.
Leveraging Gratitude is essential to allow you to enjoy the process of working towards those goals, letting you appreciate how much you achieved when you get there.
What is gratitude?
“Gratitude is the art of appreciation. Studies have proven that what you think about the most is what you will notice in your life. Perception is everything. When you can tap into the art of appreciating every moment, that is when even the most challenging obstacles can become easier to overcome. Gratitude can provide long-lasting positivity and help you recover from hardships faster.” - Julie Blouin
For many, gratitude is an elusive emotion that passes them by, it's not something they take the time to think about, it's not something that is spoken about in most friendship groups or taught in schools so people aren’t aware of how life changing and mind altering the simple practice of daily gratitude can be.
I could list off the benefits of gratitude here but I think it's better for your own understanding to do that yourself. There’s so much research and content out there on the benefits and plenty of recommended methods of practice.
I believe the best way to practise gratitude is to have a consistent written practice (and that’s exactly why it’s a fundamental part of the Evolve Journal), typically twice daily, in the morning and the evening, you don’t need to spend long at all to reap the benefits.
If this is a little outside of your comfort zone you can start off by simply asking yourself a few questions in your head during your morning and evening routines, when you are stuck in traffic, going for a walk or waiting in a queue. ‘What in life am I grateful for?’, ‘Why am I smiling?’, ‘Who do I appreciate?’. Next time you’re feeling down these questions will also be a great help!
Ask yourself these questions and let your mind wander freely. Don’t worry if you end up repeating things, this just means they are important to you and it's good to recognise that. Don’t be afraid to get abstract too. When you are faced with a challenge, obstacle or daunting task and your mentality begins to shift to see the upside and the opportunity, you know you’re getting there.
Don’t let gratitude pass you by, make sure you take the time to ground yourself to the present moment and take the time to smell the roses before it's too late.