Our world makes it so easy to get caught up in its busy-ness and to forget to count our blessings. But the truth is, you actually have plenty of things to be grateful for, regardless of the circumstances in which you may find yourself.
For a moment, turn your thoughts from the fences that need repairing before spring, or the bills that are piling up or … we all have something that puts us into a fretting, negative mindset.
But just as we all have problems, every one has their own unique list of things that bring simple pleasure, feelings of pure joy, or just a sense of comfort each day.
You can be grateful for physical blessings like where you live, the climate you reside in, or even your residence. You might be thankful about certain people being in your life. This may include your children, your grandparents or your best friend.
As Christians, we know that God extols us to give thanks with a grateful heart. Sometimes, though, it seems that we are encouraged to complain about our difficulties, whine about our lack, and beg and plead with God for more.
So how do you consciously cultivate gratitude?
It’s one thing to say that you need to have an attitude of gratitude, but just how exactly can you do that? It’s difficult to be open to the good around us when we are in that mindset of complaining, grumbling and pleading for more.
Allow yourself five minutes each morning to just … be thankful.
Take these moments to think about the day before. Say to yourself, “One thing I’m thankful for is___.” This should be something that happened in the past day. No BUT allowed. Just find one thing for which you can be unreservedly grateful.
Think on it for a minute or so. Smile. Then go on with your morning.
Here is a song that I’ve always enjoyed about counting your blessings to remind yourself that life is actually not so bad. It’s commonly sung at the Salvation Army, but I have heard it at other churches, and it’s one of those songs I can sing without seeing the words.
Appreciate your world openly
Share your gratitude with others. For example, if you’re chatting on the phone with a friend, you could say something like, “I am so glad that we painted the living room that beautiful light teal color. The sunlight reflects on it so nicely. Thank you so much for your help.” And let’s face it, that makes for a far more enjoyable conversation than complaining about how long the paint job took or how you never did manage to get the corners perfect.
During November, a bad flu knocked me flat for weeks. Luckily, a friend of mine was here during the worst of it, and she took care of the house and children when I couldn’t get of bed. As soon as I was well enough to realize what had happened, I made sure that she – and everyone in earshot – knew how grateful I was for her help. When your verbal acknowledgements to others demonstrate the gratitude you feel, you’ll develop a habit of recognizing what you’re thankful for.
You’re going to find that, as you vocalize your gratitude, it will be much easier to feel even more grateful.
Notice the small stuff
Promise yourself you won’t take little things for granted. Because life becomes crowded with people, tasks, and objects, you may feel challenged to notice small bits of wonder in your day. But if you put your mind to it, you’ll be astounded at what you see.
Open your eyes to the wonders all around you. They won’t cost you anything. A sunset, a hot cup of coffee, or an ice-cold glass of tea when you get home from work can be great reasons to feel gratitude. The smell of roses as you walk by the bush or your daughter’s impish smiles are still more things that might remind you of your blessings.
It really is an amazingly beautiful world that we live in.
Learn to turn your thoughts around
When you discover you’re thinking negative thoughts, imagine a big stop sign and say, “Stop” out loud.
Then, replace the stop sign with an image of something around you that you’re grateful for right at that moment. Think about that object, experience, person, or situation and bask in your positive experience.
If you have ever read the novel Polyanna, you may not be aware of my favourite way to do this.
In the novel, Polyanna was the daughter of a poor missionary and they relied heavily on charity. When she hoped and prayed for a new doll, but instead received a pair of crutches, her father introduced her to The Glad Game. The trick was to find something, even something small, to be grateful about in every situation.
When Polyanna could find nothing to feel grateful for regarding the crutches, her father reminded her that she could be quite glad she didn’t need them. In the novel, Polyanna teaches this game to everyone she meets and changes their lives in the process. It’s a powerful story about the power of gratitude and how one person can make a profound difference.
Now it’s your turn. In every situation, there is something for which we can be grateful even if, like Polyanna, we learn to be grateful that we don’t need the crutches!
Keep a gratitude journal
If you find you’re having difficulty remembering to notice the things that stir your inner thankfulness, perhaps starting a gratitude journal would help. A journal is a tangible visual aid that will trigger you to think about what you’re grateful for.
Try just putting put the date on the page and jotting down what you’re grateful for at that time. There’s no need for a fancy journal. You can write as much or as little as you wish. Place your journal in a spot where you’ll see it frequently, like on the dining room table, the kitchen counter, or near your favorite chair. This way, you’ll be prompted to experience your gratitude more often.
Being grateful is truly one of the things that makes life worth living!
As you consciously decide to experience your thankfulness, you’ll start to feel it on a deeper level. Open your eyes and mind to the people, places, things, and experiences you’re grateful for. There is a good reason why God calls us to be continually grateful and thankful.