I wish gratitude was my go-to state. I like people who are grateful. Unfortunately, I have to work at it. My gifts tend toward “exhortation;” my strengths fall in the learning-teaching realm; and my enneagram type suggests that I’m often trying to reform the world around me. I see the gaps. I’m a realist. I don’t have time to lavish thanks on people when there are so many things to do next. (Yes, it can be exhausting to live and work with me!)
Since pausing to be grateful is not as natural for me, I’ve had to learn over the years that gratitude really matters. Gratitude isn’t a nice-to-have extra; it’s an essential. Essential to relationships. Essential to faith. Essential to our well-being.
Psychologists tell us that research backs the power of gratitude in our lives. It increases happiness, lowers depressive moods, and even offers health benefits. A simple exercise like writing three things that went well at the end of each day can be transformative over time.
In short, gratitude helps us thrive.
The Psalms overflow with expressions of gratitude to God, placing it squarely in the center of the worship life of God’s people. Gratitude inspires our praise, frames our requests, and follows lament as we emerge from painful experiences. Gratitude roots our trust as we remember all God has done and hope for what God will do.
Given all this, you’d think a season founded on giving thanks might be easy for people who follow Jesus. We have a rich story and layers of practices that feature gratitude. Nevertheless, sometimes we get so caught up in our to-do lists that we find it hard to feel grateful. If that’s you, here are four ways to make this season the gift it can be.
Reclaim the Season – Maybe like me, you just need to decide you’re going to practice gratitude and be intentional about doing it.
Cultivate an Abundance Mindset – Most of us are well aware of the “shadow story” of scarcity, the constant reminder that there’s not enough. Whether we’re looking for more time, money, relationships, or students to show up at church, this “not enough” mindset undercuts our ability to receive the gifts in front of us.
Make Space to Reflect – Maybe you’re not a “gratitude journal” kind of person. You have trouble sitting down to list out your blessings every day. That’s okay. What’s important is that we each find some way to make room for regular reflection. You might find it helpful to practice a daily prayer of examen in this season of frantic movement. Or perhaps light a candle and use its light as a prompt for thanksgiving. Or maybe you could make intentional space at your dinner table to share one thing each person is grateful for each day through this season.
Be Specific – Finally, specific reasons for gratitude are often more powerful than rushed or impersonal thank-yous. Take some time to say some meaningful “thank-yous.”
What are some ways you are cultivating gratitude this season?