Being thankful in all circumstances can teach you much more than you’d imagine. Sure, not everything feels good, but there’s always something you can find for which to give thanks.
Practice your Thanks-Living skills!
Here are five great lessons you can learn by being thankful:
1 – Thankfulness opens hearts.
Being thankful, regardless of the stage and state of your life, might not be easy, but it does impact those around you. During times when Rob and I have experienced less-than-optimum situations, expressing what we’re thankful for has created a connection.
Hardship can divide spouses, families, and friends, just because everyone is focused, in word and deed, on the struggle.
Expressing thankfulness draws hearts back together.
If you find yourself avoiding talking to those you love because of the issues you’re dealing with, then start with a sentence about what you’re feeling grateful for… talking about all the blessings in your life can engage everyone, and you might surprise each other at what you find yourself grateful for…
2 – Being thankful shapes the future.
Once you start discussing all the areas in which you’re thankful, you’ll begin to see where God has blessed your life in the past. And that leads to anticipating future opportunities. If your future is shaped in what you’re thankful for, it becomes easier to bounce back and get on track.
3 – Gratitude reduces want-itis.
“Gimme-gimme” and “I want, I want, I want” have become an epidemic in our western society. Being thankful for what we have combats the materialism of our culture in a healthy way. Once you notice all you actually possess and feel a sense of thankfulness, wanting extra stuff becomes less attractive.
4 – Thankfulness impacts our memories.
Memory is subjective. Two people can think back on the same experience and will have differing memories, according to their bent toward optimism or pessimism. Once an individual looks back in their history with the filter of gratitude, the memories can be wired toward optimism.
5 – Thankfulness balances a healthy sense of self.
Being thankful can increase an internal sense of self-esteem because it hones attention to where others are helping. By acknowledging you need help, which can be humbling, you also must shift to the belief that you’re a worthwhile person because someone went out of their way to help. It’s a curious cycle.
Yesterday I wrote about sticky positive thougthts and said I have Scripture verses posted to encourage my thinking. This is one that’s been very important to me:
… in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
This article about a sermon on the above Scripture is one of my recent favorites – it unpacks the idea that we don’t need to be grateful for the suffering, but rather we can be grateful in the suffering.
What sticks in your brain? Have you ever heard a melody and it kept going ’round and ’round in your head for the rest of the day (or night)? If you like the song, then that’s OK – but if you don’t… well, it can drive you batty!
And it’s the same with our thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts we think are helpful for our behavior, and sometimes they aren’t.
Wouldn’t it be good to have sticky positive thoughts going ’round our head rather than those stinky negative ones?
Sticky Positive Thoughts
Let’s get some sticky positive thoughts into our brains… Do any of these resonate with you?
I’m loved and wanted.
My time will come – I can be happy when others succeed.
Be thankful for the one. One step forward, one page written, one child encouraged, one heart strengthened, one person eating well, one bed made, one load of laundry folded, one desire fulfilled, one prayer answered, one smile, one…
Never underestimate the one thing.
Every book began with a page of writing, and every blog began with that first post. A relationship begins with a smile between two people. The knowledgable person began their journey with one item of information. New forests begin with one tree. (I was reminded by this post.) Revolutionary technology begins with an idea. Each business starts with one client.
One. It could be the start of something big!
I’m encouraging you to be thankful for one thing – that first item, or the next one thing on your list. Why? Because it has value. (And yes, I’m talking to myself also.)
It’s so easy to gloss over what you’ve already accomplished because you’re desperately focused on all you have yet to add to your resume.
One way to appreciate the “joy of the start” is by being thankful.
Be thankful for the one thing.
I challenge you to write down what you’re thankful for – today. The one thing. Just one thing. What one action have you taken that holds value? (And value is subjective – you decide.) Here are some ideas on how to record it:
This first day of a new year has me sifting through conflicting emotions.
People I cherish are celebrating the birth of a long awaited baby. Oh, what joy in a dream realized. And yet others are coping with the untimely death of a sister and friend – the first in their circle to pass into eternity. It feels like it’s too soon to let go of her, as everyone else believes they have decades still to live.
Same day – two diametrically opposite sets of emotions.
As this day unfolds for me, I’m going through the collections my mother has amassed over her 84 years. It’s a small apartment, but it’s full. I’m trying to help her decide what is necessary for the next chapter in her life, and what she can let go of – either to someone else (not me) or into a garbage. She’s sorting through physical artifacts that mirror the emotions of the other people I referenced above. Good memories, sad ones, joyful experiences and tragic happenings. It’s all here in her stuff.
We are all the same – we will all experience the scale of events from joy to tears.
What do we do with it all?
The value of a moment.
Do we know the value of each happening at the moment it occurs? Not always. Just as Dr. Seuss says, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
Even the bad moments can create valuable memories.
Maybe that needs to be our goal as we go through the days… creating value in the moments, regardless of the emotions – good or bad…
What do you think?
How will you mine the value of a moment – this year?
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
If you’re looking at your “now”, and it’s so far from what you want or what you had, it can feel discouraging. Our inner push to set goals or our outer need for achievement and affirmation can poison our current spot.
Be thankful for now.
Take care; we can get all caught up in our “dreams” and striving for what we want, that we forget there is joy right now.
It’s not that simple, though. And we shouldn’t be surprised, I guess, as everything that truly has worth needs effort to shore up the action.
Is being thankful easy for you?
I think all of us would like to believe that we are thankful people. (It’s almost indisputable that we have many, many things to be thankful for…)
Maybe our parents insisted we write a thank you card after receiving a gift, which began a habit which continued into adulthood. Or not.
Perhaps we use the words “thank you” a few times a day when our spouse or wait-staff hand us something to eat. Or we respond with thanks when a stranger, co-worker or loved-one does something to benefit our well-being.
It’s even possible that we journal or list those items we are grateful for each day. For example, I have an app on my phone called Gratitude 365 – it’s especially useful because my phone is with me all day, every day. I snap a photo and write down all I can think of that causes me to be thankful. Robert and I have made lists of more than 100 items we’re thankful for – you’d be surprised how easy it is to do this.
But does all this thankfulness lead to a higher level of thought and bring about a happiness doubled by wonder?
Happiness doubled by wonder. Really?
I’m going to suggest it’s not the action of cataloging thankfulness that brings about happiness… (though maybe it begins there). It’s not saying, “thank you” that makes a difference in our happiness.
We need to pause to feel thankful.
First pause. Then feel.
After those steps, perhaps our thoughts can rise above mundane and petty annoyances.
When I take the time to really feel that gratitude – I must be candid – I am humbled.
I know my mistakes and failings. I know my smelly inner dialogue. And there is a scary and startling wonder that comes from realizing I’ve been gifted (often despite my efforts) with an immense list of things to be thankful for… relationships, physical abilities, and items, circumstances both avoided and experienced, and a good future, in my view, granted by the grace of God through the sacrifice of Jesus’ life.
It’s not comfortable.
That wonder isn’t always a comfortable feeling. And the happiness which grows from the wonder makes me realize how very blessed I am. Which, again, isn’t always comfortable.
Should feeling thankful be comfortable? What do you think?
What do you feel?
How does being thankful – feeling grateful – work in your life? Has it made a difference? How? Please share your insights…
Is feeling thankful easy for you? Comfortable? Is there a sense of happiness and wonder when you feel thankful?