The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery.
And scripture reminds us of the importance of a thankful and grateful attitude:
- Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
- You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (Corinthians 9:11)
- Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! (Psalm 95:2)
But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone, or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.
That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing. And that’s how you can cultivate a spirit of gratitude so that being thankful and grateful for your blessings – no matter how small – become your primary focus.
Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts God blesses us with every day, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.
There are many things to be grateful for: colorful fall leaves, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, chocolate, fresh eggs, warm jackets, corn, the ability to read, roses, our health, butterflies and Jesus. These are just a few things on my gratitude list today. What’s on yours?
Here are just a few ways that you can be mindful of practicing gratitude on a consistent basis.
- Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly, or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
- Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures on poster board, in a notebook, or a journal.
- Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine by sharing with family members or praying out loud.
- Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation. This one can be tough sometimes, especially like right now in the middle of a pandemic. But this is the perfect time to look for the small blessings that you never thought about before.
- When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.
- Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express your gratitude to the Lord.
As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may notice how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.