Updated: Feb 5, 2022
Every year, as Thanksgiving approaches, we reflect on what we are grateful for – our health, our families, our jobs. And while going around the dinner table and sharing these blessings is wonderful, practicing gratitude should be something we do throughout the year.
Practicing gratitude can improve our mental health and boost our relationships with others. “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships (health.harvard.edu).”
Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries is sharing simple ways to practice gratitude every day. The more you can bring your attention to what you are grateful for, the more you’ll notice things to feel grateful for!
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:18
1. Reflect on Your Struggles
To be grateful in the moment, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you’ve experienced. When you reflect on your struggles and realize how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast leads to gratefulness.
2. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Keeping a gratitude journal is as simple as writing out the things you are grateful for each day. You can decide how long your list is and how much detail you want to include.
Be grateful that your spouse made you coffee this morning, that the weather was beautiful, or that you had a pleasant exchange with someone at the grocery store. It’s an easy habit to form, and after a while, you are left with a collection of inspiring material to look back on when you need a pick-me-up.
3. Share Your Gratitude with Others
Research shows that expressing gratitude can increase happiness and strengthen relationships. So, the next time your spouse, co-worker, or family member does something you appreciate, be sure to let them know!
4. Show Your Gratitude to Others
Two obstacles to gratefulness are often forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness. Visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude.
Say “thank you”
Hold the door open for someone
These small gestures will show your gratitude to those around you and help you focus on all the positive aspects of your life.
5. Avoid Negative Behaviors
The impact of negativity is that negative things tend to dominate our thinking and emotions even when positive things are happening. For example, gossiping about a frustrating co-worker or complaining about the cost to repair the car are examples of negative things that can dominate our thoughts.
When we live in gratitude, we are interrupting the negativity. Instead, be grateful you have a job that provides for your family and a car that gets you from point A to point B. In just 17 seconds, a smile can stimulate the “feel good” hormone called Oxytocin – reducing negative feelings and outweighing them with a more positive point of view.
At Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries, we know life isn’t always sunshine and smiles, but we struggle, and we persevere. Being intentional about practicing gratitude allows us to continuously focus on the many blessings God has given us.