The Power of Gratitude: How to Cultivate Thankfulness All Year Round

Be forewarned! This Thursday Thoughts is longer than usual. Stay with it. It can have a huge impact on your peace, joy, and happiness.
Thanksgiving is a time that many of us turn our attention to being grateful. Reigniting gratitude has become as much of a ritual as Thanksgiving itself, yet it is something that we should be displaying all year. Due to the history of Thanksgiving, current world events, and your personal experiences, you may find it difficult to be grateful. However, setting aside these circumstances, we can use Thanksgiving as a steppingstone to display gratitude daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
The positive effects of practicing gratitude can help build resilience, feel more positive emotions, help us cope with adversity, improve health and relationships. Research has indicated that gratitude can reduce doctor visits and result in greater optimism. It can also help decrease stress, increase happiness, and lead to more socially inclusive behavior.
Gratitude is something that can be expressed in both personal and professional situations.

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude is a complex emotion that can be influenced by many factors such as personality, culture, and life circumstance.
Developing a sense of gratefulness takes practice. It is easy to be grateful when times are good. But what about when you are facing challenges, such as the loss of a loved one, dealing with illness, cancer, or financial ruin? Other trials include brokenness, despair, and uncertainty. This is when taking the time to acknowledge the goodness in life during crisis allows a shift in perspective, from what we lack to what we do have.

Gratitude in Difficult Times

I think I am one of the anomalies when it comes to gratitude. I focus more on my practice when facing difficulties rather than when times are good. I found this to be especially true after my son died. His death by suicide threw me a curve ball. My life was turned upside down, forever changed. I remember asking myself how was I going to get through this? I immediately turned to gratitude.
You might be asking how could I be grateful? It wasn’t easy. I really had to look for things to be grateful for. Somedays my gratitude was simple, that the sun was shining, I saw daylight and I had a hot shower, things that I normally take for granted. On other occasions, I was able to look at the time I had with my son in his 24 years. Merely recognizing that I had 24 years with him was immense. I could have focused on not having more time with him, not seeing him get married or having children. Instead, I remembered his skateboarding days, his smile, and his hug. All the things that I was grateful for that I experienced with him.
Gratitude has been part of my life for a long time. I know how it has helped me in my trials and tribulation. If you have never practiced gratitude, you might be asking how you get started. Below are my personal tools.

Building a Gratitude Practice

Any of these tools can be used to build your gratitude practice. See what works for you. Experiment with them. You may find one works or a combination. I use all of them.

1. Write about it.
Putting your thoughts on paper makes them real. It is also an opportunity to go back and review what you are grateful for. My journal sits on my nightstand, so it is easy for me to grab and write in each morning.

2. Compose a note, text, or email.
You can express your gratitude for something kind that someone has done for you. Or it can be an opportunity to reach out and tell someone you are thinking about them. I frequently get phone calls about the messages I send. They tell me my note made their day. If they only knew how much it helped me!

3. Make it a habit.
Set time aside each day to write your gratitude thoughts. I do it every morning. It sets the tone for the rest of the day.

4. Gratitude can be about anything.
Include people, places, and things. Take note of your sense of smell and hearing. Being outdoors gives me the opportunity to be grateful for crickets chirping, the sun on my face and fresh air.

5. Include other people in your gratitude practice.
I actually got this idea from a friend. She had a girl’s night and invited each of us to write what were grateful for on a slip of paper. We then added them to her gratitude jar. I started this practice in the holidays. Friends and family enjoyed being a part of this tradition. I am grateful for the jar because inside there are gratitude notes from my son.

Examples of Gratitude

I want to offer you a few examples to get you started.

  • “We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” —Friedrich Koenig
  • Thank God that he gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57
  • I am grateful for this food.
  • “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
  • I am grateful for my friends and family.
  • Let me shout God’s name with a praising song, let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks. Psalm 69:30
  • I am grateful for my cat and dog.
  • “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” —John F. Kennedy.
  • In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
  • I am grateful to those who read Thursday Thoughts and share them so that others are helped.
In gratitude and love, Happy Thanksgiving
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