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Intentional Living

How I Choose Gratitude When I Really Don’t Feel Like It

November 24, 2015

I will be the first to admit that gratitude does not come easily to me. Blame it on my melancholic temperament, my fallen human nature, or some combination of both.

It’s just not where my mind goes, dagnabbit.

I’ve had to learn to choose gratitude just like making any other adult choice in life…like choosing to budget, do the dishes, or pray. I had to learn to choose it because gratitude is good for me just like those other things.

Why is gratitude good for us?

If you dig into the secular research, gratitude can seriously change your life. From boosting your energy and happiness levels to being less depressed and envious, it packs a positive punch when part of your daily rhythm. Being a grateful person will spill over its irrefutable effects into almost every area of your life.

From a spiritual standpoint, God encourages gratitude.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. Col 3:16

He wants us to be grateful because it’s the only place from which we can truly comprehend and realize all the lavish gifts he’s given to us. It’s a necessary platform for receiving his grace and not taking anything for granted. In other words, it allows us to grow in deep spiritual maturity.

But why is it so freaking hard to choose?

Because brokenness.

Being grateful requires virtue, which our human nature likes to rebel against. It’s a whole lot easier to be envious, negative, jealous, bitter, fearful, untrusting, angry, and entitled than it is to be grateful.

Especially in times of trial! One act of gratitude while suffering is worth far more than numerous shouts of praise in a season of blessing.

Even if you aren’t suffering, reflecting on things to be grateful for is typically forgotten in the business of life. It’s easy to take things for granted, especially in our American culture that runs a million miles a minute. Being grateful takes intentionality and that requires discipline and sacrifice…again, something pretty tough for most people.

So how do I become grateful?

Just be strong and do it.

OK that’s great if we all had wills of iron but for us average folk, that just ain’t gonna cut it. What practical things do I do to grow in gratitude?

Start a gratitude journal. For a few minutes each day, write down the things, people, relationships, situations, etc. that you find yourself thankful for. Just this simple act of recalling ALL THE THINGS you have to be grateful for in your life will change your attitude and perspective.

Verbally express gratitude with others. Whether it’s with a friend, spouse, relative, or stranger, specifically verbalize your gratitude out loud for something they did.

Stop complaining!!!! Ugh. We all hate complainers and have to fight hard to not become one ourselves as easy as it can be. Airing your gripes every now and again is alright but the more it becomes a habit, the more it decreases your levels of gratitude.

Pray for it. Beg God to transform your heath to one that is grateful for all that he gives you. Ask him to help you notice the people, places, and things in which you can be grateful for.

Write thank you notes. Sometimes you don’t get the opportunity to verbally express your gratitude for a person, so why not write a thank you note to them?! It’s a good habit to get into and who doesn’t LOVE receiving a letter of thanks?

Become a student of gratitude. You can read about growing in gratitude in scripture, books, from the saints, or everyday mentors. For example, check out a video on gratitude by Zig Ziglar:

Doing just these simple and small things have had a huge impact on me (especially when we were going through the darkest phases of infertility and I didn’t think I had anything to be grateful for). It was easy to be upset and angry but I learned that through CHOOSING gratitude, despite my circumstances, I am much happier and joyful. 

This week is Thanksgiving…no better a time to begin making steps to growing gratitude and its effects in your life!

“No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” St. Ambrose

Happy Thanksgiving!


What are We Thankful For?

April 26, 2012

Today, a student and I walked around the quad asking people, “What are you thankful for?” We had them write it down, then we chatted them up. Above is a scan of the pages of my notebook we used today. (Click it to view it larger.)

Here’s the list typed out:

  • success in classes – Mike
  • delight in little things – Jonathan
  • being alive – Neil
  • Health & Family – Megan
  • Neil’s Credibility – Simon
  • My Family moving back to this country – Jessy
  • My family moving to the states – David
  • beautiful weather today – Diana
  • panera chi tea latte – Grace
  • Friendship, family and food! – Sara
  • Love, hope, generousity [sic], pain relief, the source – Nick
  • The ability to be with the people I love, my parents and my family – Mark
  • Family, God, friends! – Marcus Ramóne
  • family, friends, the love of God, the campus ministry I’m a part of, for the opportunity to go to a prestigious school, like the U of I – Grace O. A.

What a wonderful list of things to be thankful for! (or, a list of things for which to be grateful, for those of you with prickly grammar sensitivities out there!)

We’d ask two questions, and encourage one action.

Question 1: What are you thankful for?

Question 2: Who are you going to thank?

Action 1: Thank them! Right now!

It’s hard to give be thankful if we don’t give thanks to anyone! We had people thanking their friends around them, a few people shouting out a quick “Thank you, God,” and we got one guy to call his mom. Their conversation went something like this:

Marcus: Mom, I’m thankful for you. These two guys are walking around campus, asking people what they’re thankful for and getting them to thank people. I want to thank you for being my mom and doing so much for me. I love you.

[a pause to let Mom respond]

Marcus: No, I’m not gonna be on TV! … No, I’m not in trouble. … I don’t need any money! I just wanted to say thanks! OK, thank you, Mom. I love you.

[call ends]

What a phone call! I bet once his mom got over the shock, she was really touched.

It’s important to be grateful and to give thanks. We must remember to pray and give thanks to God, for he has given us so many beautiful things, so many wonderful blessings. We must remember to thank one another, for God usually delivers those blessings through those around us. We are surrounded by so much love!

Now it’s your turn!

What are you thankful for?

Who can you thank for that?

Well, what are you waiting for? Thank them! Do it now!