Gratitude is a hot topic theses days.
And for good reason.
However, I will be the first to admit, when I started seeing all the articles and research about how practicing gratitude affects happiness, I was skeptical.
It wasn’t that it didn’t make sense. Of course focusing on the positive would cause you to feel more positive. But I guess I was skeptical about how big of an impact the gratitude research was promising.
Over the past year I have probably read/listened to over a hundred books/blog articles/podcasts on the topic of gratitude. And as much as I rejected it, it crept into my mind, and I started practicing it.
It changed my life.
I would have a frustration at my job, but instead of dwelling on this, my thoughts would switch to, Wow how lucky I get to come home to my husband whom I share such good times with.
Or I would notice a sunset, a blooming tree, or a bird singing and find an appreciation for it.
Previously I have had a habit of getting really stuck in the nostalgia of the past or the worries of the future.
But sometimes, when I am practicing gratitude, I think,
These are the good ol’ days. I am living in them right now.
Another reason I was previously skeptical about this whole gratitude thing, is because I thought I would have to pretend to be grateful for something I wasn’t actually grateful for. I learned you don’t have to do this.
It is more about savoring.
Not everything in life is wonderful. But find the things that are and savor them.
Say thanks for them.
Meditate on them.
Think about them.
I know there may be many different faith/spirituality traditions reading this blog. I personally come from a Christian context, and a verse I have always loved is in Philippians 4:8 (NIV):
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
We were never meant to dwell on our fears, our problems, or our hang ups. Anxiety and problem solving can be tools to guide us, if used properly. But we were never meant to dwell on such things.
We are meant to dwell on what is lovely.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. Phillipians 4:6-7 (NLT)
It is my belief, that we were designed to be in a spirit of praise, of thankfulness, of gratitude. And when we do this, there is a peace that overcomes us. It is not easy to be grateful always, it is a discipline for sure. But I believe when we do this, there is a peace we are able to access that is like no other.
And when we pray, I believe we should pray with a hope and an optimism. If you do not pray, then when you journal, journal with a hope and an optimism. I know it can be cathartic at times to get all the negative emotions out, so I am not saying there is never a time for this.
However, if all of our prayers or journal entries are about how much we hate our life, we likely will not feel a peace afterward. But if your prayers/journal entries are focused on the joy you are experiencing now and the joy and circumstances you are hoping will come, then this will bring you a peace that passes all understanding.
1. What are you feeling grateful for right now in this moment? A happy memory? The weather? Your family? It can big or small, serious or silly. List 5-10 things. Take some time to reflect and savor these things.
2. In what ways do you allow anxiety and worry take away peace? How could you make changes in this area?
3. Take a minute to think about your anxieties and concerns for the future and the things you don’t like about the present. Now journal in the lens of hope and optimism. No complaining, no feeling sorry for yourself. Journal about how you would like these situations to transform and allow yourself to have a hope about this. Not only is hope more enjoyable, it also makes it more likely to happen.
4. How will you begin a practice of gratitude? Jot down the first few things that come to mind.(Some ideas are keeping a gratitude journal, doing a daily gratitude meditation, going on gratitude walks, or listening to podcasts focused on gratitude and positive thinking)
Wishing you many moments of peace and gratitude..