It is almost cliché that we should live with an “attitude of gratitude.” Every guru from the New Age to the pulpit of your local church expounds the need to keep a gratitude journal, count your blessings, give God praise for all He has done. At the same time, however, our society urges us to look for ways to “improve.” This generally boils down to figuring out what’s missing in our lives and pursuing that thing with all we’ve got whether it’s a better physique, a bigger house, a more fulfilling relationship, or smarter and more obedient children. These are opposing philosophies because constant improvement focuses our attention on what is lacking while gratitude sees all that we have.
In Day 11 of Tommy Newberry’s 40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life, he reminds the reader that gratitude is a magnetic force that naturally draws joy-filled people and occurrences into your life (p.61). In other words, harboring thoughts of the abundance in your life, rather than on what is missing or wrong, is a faster, more sure way of reaching the goals you seek. If you appreciate your body for all it allows you to accomplish, you are more likely to nourish and treat it well than if you are always cursing your thighs and belly. Focusing on the good things in your relationship or your single life brings you the fulfillment you seek more surely than hounding your partner to change or chasing around looking for Mr. or Ms. Right. Certainly, lavishing our children with love and positive attention is a better way to see them flourish.
Newberry points out that we are not born grateful, but that gratitude can be learned and cultivated. This is good news. I have not been consistently thankful. I tend to get caught up in what I want to change, what I think needs to be different. I’ve fallen for the common myth that this is the way to happiness. But it is a lie. Chasing what you don’t possess while ignoring the good right before your eyes is a recipe for misery.
Gratitude is a choice. We can decide that we will focus on life’s blessings rather than its shortcomings. Gratitude is a sense of joy and appreciation in response to receiving the gift of an object or gesture. It is a learned skill that adds value to situations and relationships. Joyful people don’t necessarily have more in their lives to be grateful for, they just give more attention to their blessings than to their difficulties.
The goal for Day 11 is to think about four of your most cherished blessings and identify how you consistently show gratitude for these gifts. If you are like me, the better question would be, “how could you?” How can I tangibly express my appreciation for my relationship with my Creator, my partner, my family, my health? These are questions I will be pondering and answers I will be seeking. One way Newberry suggests to do this is to set alarms throughout the day to remind you to take 48 second “gratitude shots.” Think about the things that are going well in your life and offer a prayer of thanks. Send one-line thank you texts to the people who are important to you. Congratulate yourself for the progress you have made in the last hour or two.
How can you turn gratitude from a concept to a reality in your life?