We can’t change what happens to us – too many things are outside of our control – but we can determine our reaction or response to those things. We can also shift our focus and be grateful for what we have in the face of our circumstances.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
Being grateful changes our perspective and helps us to appreciate our blessings. A thankful person is also less likely to complain. And when we’re full of gratitude, there is little room for fear or worry that can hold us back and bring us to a deep, dark place that’s hard to climb out of.
Being grateful is easy. You can take any negative and turn it around. You might not like your job, but because of it you can pay for a place to live and food to eat. Your car might be broken down, but you can still walk. It might rain on your wedding day, but rain waters the earth and makes everything fresh. No food to eat? You have arms to hold others and a voice to uplift those in need.
Finding the positive in a tragedy isn’t quite so easy. I once took a course that required the students to write their life out on a timeline – all those important happy/sad events that shaped us. What I found out, looking back on my timeline, was that I hadn’t walked that path alone. I had family or friends or the presence of God to get me through all the awful things. And seeing that, in hindsight, made me grateful. All those bad times helped to shape me and, though I could have done without them, I’m the person I am today because of them. Maybe I wouldn’t be as concerned for those who suffer if I hadn’t gone through what I did.
The hardest part of being grateful is remembering to be. But if we determine to make a change in how we look at things, there are a lot of ways to start making thankfulness a habit. Here are a few suggestions:
- Make a Gratitude Board. Post pictures on a wall or a board of the things you’re grateful for in your life. The visual aspect of this is an excellent reminder, and if you put it in a place where you see it throughout your day, it’s even more helpful. Kathi Lipp talks about practicing gratitude and creating a gratitude board in her blog.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal. The Benefits of Positive Thinking website suggests writing in a journal or notebook at the beginning of the day, or the end, or even taking it with you to jot down your thoughts during the day. “Because you actually stop to write what you are thankful for, you do dedicate some time to reflect about it. You take the time to count your blessings….”
- Begin and End with Thankfulness. Before I get up in the morning, I take the time to remember the good things in my life and be thankful. Doing this gets me in the right frame of mind for the rest of my day. At night, reflecting on the positives that happened that day also helps bring me peace and a good night’s sleep.
- Be Observant. Determine not to take things for granted. Being grateful for the big things in life (like having a family or a job) is important, but so is being thankful for the little things. Notice the awesome blue in a clear summer sky, and be grateful you have eyes to see it. We have salt for our food, clean running water, toilets (and toilet paper). So many good and ordinary things to be grateful for, and if they were gone we would surely miss them.
- Say Thank You. Recognize acts of kindness and express your gratitude even for little things, whether to family, friends, or strangers. Write notes, send emails, make a phone call – and do it as soon as you think of it. You’ll brighten someone else’s day and yours as well.
Why don’t you start a list of the things you’re grateful for? Make it easy. Starting today, write down three things you’re grateful for and why. Then every day add at least one new thing to the list. In a month’s time you’ll have more than 30 things on your list.
I’ve heard that if you do something everyday for 21 days, you’ll make that thing a habit. There are so many worse things to make a habit of than being grateful.
Today, what are you grateful for?