I know Thanksgiving is a few weeks away, but a milestone birthday and anniversary have me thinking about the importance of gratitude. Being thankful needs to happen more than once a year. In fact, research by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California, Riverside indicates there are powerful benefits to being grateful but only if you say thanks consistently.
"If you don't do it regularly, you're not going to get the benefits. It's kind of like going to the gym once a year. What would be the good of that?"
It is important to have an attitude of gratitude because then you will be constantly aware of the blessings in your life. Too much time is spent complaining and not nearly enough time is spent being grateful. In I Thessalonians 5:18 we read, "Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do."
We can always find reasons to complain and criticize, but it takes more effort to find reasons to be thankful. We are admonished to do it "whatever happens" which is an even greater challenge but it is what God wants us to do. A lack of gratitude will result in your never being truly happy and when things don't go well you will be angry and bitter.
There are two techniques that I have used to help me be more thankful. The first is what I call the "last time" approach. If you think that this may be the last time you ever (kissed your spouse, played with your kids, relaxed on a beach) it helps you to appreciate the simple blessings in your life. The other technique is at the end of each day write down all the positives in your day. Try doing this for two weeks and you will be amazed at how many good things really do happen in your life.
Gratitude should always begin with God and all the blessings He has brought into our lives. I think it is a good practice to begin each day with thanks to God. What God continues to do in us and through us should result in gratitude. A good exercise is to write down five examples of God's blessings in your life. Take the time to identify the five greatest blessings in your life. I have done this and it should result in a greater appreciation of God's goodness to you.
Gratitude needs to shown to the people in our lives. We need to make sure the people in our life know that we appreciate them. We can show gratitude in a variety of ways depending on the person. We can also express how thankful we are to the same person in different ways. The key is that we are consistent in our gratitude. A surge of appreciation followed by a lengthy period of inaction is not what you should aim for. Another good exercise is to list out the five people or groups of people that you are grateful for. The purpose of this is that you would intentionally reach out to these people and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your life. Don't wait till Thanksgiving or only practice gratitude occasionally. Make gratitude an attitude.