We’re in the middle of “gratitude season” in North America, with Canadian Thanksgiving behind us and American Thanksgiving just ahead. Therefore, it’s a fitting time to reassess our gratitude practices and shake off the autumn doldrums wherever possible.
You are responsible for your responses
Here’s the thing, no matter how bad life is right now, you still have something to be grateful for. However, you have to choose to see the silver lining.
When you approach life with gratitude, then you accept it as it comes, focusing on what’s working instead of what isn’t. This can be challenging, and it’s certainly not our natural instinct. In fact, some people seem committed to being miserable and making sure everyone around them is too.
This was demonstrated on Twitter recently after a woman tweeted about her blissful morning routine with her husband. She said,
my husband and i wake up every morning and bring our coffee out to our garden and sit and talk for hours. every morning. it never gets old & we never run out of things to talk to. love him so much.
A person operating from a place of gratitude would likely respond with something like, “How sweet,” or, “Isn’t that lovely.”
Predictably, and unfortunately, the Internet responded horribly. People accused this couple of throwing their happiness in others’ faces, and essentially tore the poster apart for enjoying her life. You can read more details here or here or here.
Wishing ill on those who have moments of happiness or success does not come from someone who is experiencing joy. And yet, what does it cost us to act with kindness? Certainly less than it does to react with negativity and spite.
If you’re noticing your reactions are trending more towards a Twitter troll than a person filled with the Holy Spirit, then please take this as a prompt to realign and get your gratitude wheels back on the track.
Here are 3 ways to be a more grateful person
It is possible to be grateful, even when life sucks. And there are studies that support grateful people are happier and have better health and relationships.
Some of this work must be done with professionals—sometimes our thinking patterns are stuck in a loop or distorted, and we need help to change them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!
But if you’re looking for a few simple ways to bring gratitude to the forefront of your mind and develop habits that help you cultivate a grateful heart, then here are three suggestions you can implement today.
Say prayers of gratitude
As a child, did you say bedtime prayers? This is a great practice to continue! But instead of, “Goodnight moon, goodnight stars,” try something like, “Thank you Lord, for keeping me safe today. Thank you Lord, for a warm bed and a roof to protect me from the cold.”
If gratitude is hard to come by right now, keep things simple. Challenge yourself to think of three things to be grateful for. It may seem small but these practices will help your mind slowly shift to noticing how many blessings there really are every day.
To help you find words, Christianity.com has curated 20 gratitude prayers. Use these, or prayers like them, to help you pray when you feel like you have nothing to say.
Ending the day with gratitude and thanksgiving is a wonderful note to finish on, and although it may feel forced or awkward at first, those feelings will ease over time.
Use visual cues
No matter how much you practice being a grateful person, there will always be challenges and unexpected frustrations. And there will be days when you really don’t feel like being thankful.
As simple as it sounds, visual reminders can help redirect your mind and remind you to find at least one thing to be positive about.
These can take many forms. Here are a few ideas for starters:
- An inspirational desktop background
- An object or art piece that sparks joy
- A photograph of a joyful moment or person you love
- Post-it notes on your monitor or mirror with encouraging phrases or Bible verses
- A quote you love
- Artwork that makes you smile
Think of where these visual cues will have the greatest impact and create a space for them. This could be anywhere from your kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, office, vehicle, etc.
Train your tongue
Recently, I was sitting in a meeting where there was a bit of a spirit of complaining. Honestly? I didn’t hate it. It was kind of fun to settle in and gripe. But then the moderator challenged us on it, and said we were going to spend the next five minutes randomly encouraging and/or complimenting the others in the meeting.
Aside from feeling called out, I was uncomfortable. On-demand praise for my colleagues? Really? But the moderator stood firm and the Zoom call lapsed into awkward silence until someone spoke up and offered a positive word. And then another spoke up. And another. And then someone encouraged me.
You know what? That felt pretty good! It encouraged me to say something too. And before long, the entire group had shared and everyone had been complimented at least once.
In the Bible, James says,
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.James 3:9-10
Our tongues can bless or curse. We get to choose. So choose blessing, whether you’re talking to another person or to yourself.
Becoming a more grateful person isn’t the same as toxic positivity. It’s about acknowledging the bad with the good, but choosing to focus on the good. It’s the practice of appreciating what you have rather than what you lack, and thanking God for providing for you.
Even if life isn’t perfect or how you would prefer, there is still something to be grateful for. And the sooner you can find ways to become a more grateful person, the more joy you’ll discover in life.