Gratitude, comes from the latin word gratus which means “pleasing, thankful”. It is a feeling of deep appreciation felt by the recipient of kindness, gifts, help, favors, or other types of generosity, to the giver of said gifts.
Living a life with gratitude means choosing to focus your time and attention on the things you appreciate, are thankful for and find pleasing. It does not mean that one has to pretend that bad things or difficult things are not happening. It is not a wishy washy ‘kumbaya’ lifestyle. Remember the conversation about neuroplasticity? What you focus on your attention on will form neural pathways that strengthen your thought processes and change the way you view life. Gratitude gives us different perspectives to situations- good or bad and helps us to adjust our attitudes towards those situations. Now let us backtrack and situate this topic with our bigger conversation of changing our thought patterns and metacognition.
Do you see how focusing our attentions on things we are grateful for can help us change both our internal and external narratives? It truly takes effort to focus on the positives of a situation but the benefits are so worth it! I recently read the testimony of a husband who practiced this and ended up reaping a hundred folds of peace and joy in his marriage. He started a journal to document every single day for an entire year one thing about his wife that he appreciated with the commitment not to repeat anything. Initially it was hard but then eventually the fighting and strife got less and less. The process helped him to truly experience the tenderness of every moment with his wife as searched constantly for things to appreciate. So how do we show gratitude?
If you like to journal then a gratitude journal is certainly one way to do this. A gratitude journal is the practice of jotting down, each day, things that we are grateful for, which allow us to become more present and aware. But if you are like me and do not like to pen down your emotions but are constantly ruminating on them, then may I suggest trying Phil 4:8. When you encounter any situation good or bad, before you speak, ask yourself, “Is there anything true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy about that situation?” If so, allow your mind to dwell on that for a few minutes. This metacognitive activity will help to bring the positive things to focus and give you a reason to always be thankful. It takes work… at least initially… until it becomes a habit to be able to acknowledge the negatives but instead, dwell on the positives. You need to work on your ‘gratitude muscle’ because the attitude of gratitude does not come naturally to everyone. It needs to be an intentional and iterative process which will eventually shape our thinking. If you want to think positively, you have to actively look for positive things to think about and that is what gratitude does.
God in His infinite wisdom and design knows in this life we will face adversity, trials, and some very unbearable times along with the good; and He provides us with the tools we need to safeguard our minds and our sanity. In order to not have our thought overrun with negativity, one such tool He puts in our toolbox is gratitude and admonishes us to:
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus1Thessalonians 5:18
So what are you grateful for today? If you cannot think of anything let this scripture set you on the path of gratitude:
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and do not forget all His kind deeds-He who forgives all your iniquities and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with loving devotion and compassion, who satisfies you with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.Psalm 103:2-3 BSB