6 Ways to Keep an Attitude of Gratitude

I haven’t always been grateful. In 1971 I purchased my first car: a baby blue 1964 Chevy Nova for $2000. I had saved for this car for many birthdays and Christmases. I had eagerly dreamed about the day I’d have my own set of wheels.

At that time I was living in Pennsylvania, so I never minded the fact that the car had no air conditioning. Then in the summer of 1972, I decided to take off and explore Florida. My summer job included a trek of over 25 miles to work on one of Florida’s busiest roads, US 19. The drive included sitting at many stop lights while I mindlessly watched them go from red to yellow to green for several cycles before my car inched along very far.

I had never considered what sitting in 90 plus degree weather with horrible humidity would be like, especially at 5:00 PM rush hour traffic. My coveted car suddenly went from a treasure to a heated sauna that I detested. It was the exact same car but circumstances had changed. Gratitude was something that I had one moment and then I allowed it to disappear as quickly as it appeared.

Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 , “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Notice, Paul doesn’t say give thanks in some things. The Message translates this verse as “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”

The following are some ways to practice gratitude as a spiritual discipline all year long:

1. First recognize the benefits of gratitude.

Clayton Clinton in his article, Opening the heart: A spirituality of gratitude, writes that, “Cultivating such an attitude (of gratitude) opens a doorway to the spiritual heart, the human capacity for subtle perception, communion, healing, and love.”

2. Write someone a thank you letter.

Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, had people write and deliver a letter of thanks to someone who impacted their lives with kindness. These people than reported increased recognition of happiness. In fact, this simple gesture increased their well-being for over a month.

3. Keep a gratitude journal.

Every morning before your feet hit the ground, write a list of five things to be thankful for. Notice how this will train your brain to look for things to celebrate.

4. Practice mindfulness.

Take the time to focus on the warmth of the sun, the sound of the birds, the smell of freshly baked pumpkin pie, or the smile of a child. God puts these joys before us everyday but it is our job to recognize them.

5. Be thankful even in the difficult times.

Author Joshua Choonmin Kang, says that gratitude gives us the strength to endure the suffering. When we like Jesus have a wilderness experience, all we want to do is to get to the promised land. Having a stockpile of memories of our blessings helps us to remember the goodness of God when all else feels hopeless and barren. But afterwards, looking back, many people will tell you that this exodus to the wilderness was the most spiritually formational times of their lives.

5. Look for times to give thanks.

We give thanks to God at meals. Why not recognize the decrease in gas price, the dental visit with no cavities, or the safe arrival at work?

6. Let prayers of gratitude reach deep into your soul.

Jesus instructed us to say the Lord’s Prayer as a model of how to pray. My experience has been that the more I pray this prayer, the more meaningful it becomes. I am presenting a Celtic prayer of thanksgiving with can be used to deepen our faith.

For John the Baptist
preparing the way by repentance and baptism
we thank you
For Jesus Christ
proclaimed your Son by water and Spirit
we thank you
For Good News
that Salvation has come to the earth
we thank you
For your love
undeserved and graciously given
we thank you
For the Holy Spirit
transforming and empowering lives
we thank you
For your promise
of an eternity in which to praise you
we thank you

The Soul Care team wishes you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving Day. May it not be about the football games, the turkey, or even Black Friday shopping. We pray that this day will truly be a day where your heart is centered on thankfulness to Almighty God.

Kathy Milans is the lead member of the Soul Care Collective Steering Committee.
Image Attribution: marekuliasz / Thinkstock

Spirituality of Gratitude by Joshua Choonmin KangOpening the heart: A spirituality of gratitude.
McClintock, Clayton H.
Spirituality in Clinical Practice, Vol 2(1), Mar 2015, 21-22.


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