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Gratitude, I am learning, is a daily practice, not once a year for Thanksgiving, or on those occasions when you are happy something has come together. No. Some days it means getting up, looking around and saying: What is beautiful in my life? How can I lift that up in my consciousness?
These past few years have brought our family struggle, but I now understand hardships awaken us to blessings others dismiss. Those daily miracles which are not so mundane after all – the ability to speak and connect in conversations with another person, walking without difficulty, food and shelter.
Committing to Gratitude
Staying in gratitude takes commitment and consistent reflection. Frankly, you have to be willing to face yourself despite wanting to escape into complacency. Some weeks ago, after a particularly rough day, I texted one of my best friends about a series of setbacks. She replied by challenging me to think of ten things I was grateful for right now.
I would love to tell you all I responded quickly, my mind springing forward with renewed faith and optimism. The truth is pain and disappointment obscured much in that moment. It took days to fully emerge from a place of suffocating sorrow. When I did, I began to grasp the power of her urging me to push into gratefulness and away from complaint.
Gratitude is work. And yet, cultivating a grateful heart and perspective remains possible for all of us. In Choosing Gratitude: The Journey to Joy, author Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes: “Even in the most turbulent waters, choosing gratitude rescues me from myself and my runaway emotions. It buoys me on the grace of God and keeps me from drowning in what otherwise would be my natural bent toward doubt, negativity, discouragement, and anxiety.”
Four Steps to Cultivate Thankfulness in Your Daily Life:
1. Reflect on Your Blessings Throughout Your Day: Many times we are told to make a list of what we are grateful for at either the beginning or end of the day. Why wait? As you recognize blessings, grand and small, during the day, honor them by standing in a place of thankfulness. I find doing this helps tremendously with your mood and gives you resilience.
2. Find a Gratitude Friend: Remember my best friend I mentioned earlier? Well, Shannon is a wholistic healing strategist; she’s also my gratitude girlfriend. After I have cried, she encourages me to keep going because there is much to be grateful for despite obstacles. We talk and text almost every day. It’s wonderful to have an accountability partner standing alongside you. Get your own!
3. Deepen Your Relationship with God: When we are connected to our Creator, through daily prayer and meditation, our eyes are opened to the abundance surrounding us. Praise becomes part of our vocabulary and even during the most arduous seasons, we find small joys. Set aside time to talk with God, mediating on the words found in scripture and your appreciation will grow.
4. Serve Others: There is a quote from Rabindranath Tagore, writer and thinker, which speaks deeply to the importance of service in our lives: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” Often when we take our eyes off of our circumstances, and find a way to serve others (whether through volunteering, helping a neighbor or friend, etc.), we develop a greater spirit of thankfulness for all living beings surrounding us.
Living in gratitude sounds simple, but it’s actually quite radical, and deciding to see the world in this way, not as a place to merely endure, but to thrive, transforms and liberates us.