Six Ways to Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is an antidote to discontent. Practicing gratitude means seeing the blessings God has given us rather than complaining about everything we don't have--are we grateful for a glass half full or annoyed for a glass half-empty? Our choice of outlook makes a difference in our overall satisfaction!

Set realistic expectations

We may spend a lot of energy pursuing a problem-free life, but Jesus reminds us in John 16:33, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” Expect trouble, Jesus said. But he also said he has overcome the world and we can find peace in him. Gratitude, choosing to be thankful for God's gifts, reorients us to our place in God's world. But unrealistic expectations undermine gratitude and thereby sabotage our happiness. We want to be happy, right?

Face your challenges

Of course, we can't ignore problems or pretend we have no struggles. But we can make positive changes where we can, accept the things over which we are actually powerless, and focus on what is good in life. As the serenity prayer says, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Look for the blessings

This is old advice, but some days it needs active effort. Some days, practicing gratitude means actively looking for something good. It can be treasure hunting in the rubble of our brokenness. It’s pushing yourself to name at least one thing for which you have to be thankful. It could be anything from a loving friend or family member, to the ability to think, to the cup from which you drink your coffee. It’s the beautiful colors of autumn leaves, brilliant sunshine that lights the sky, and a gentle breeze across your face. Connecting to what you do have can bring you comfort, help you relax, and fill you with gladness. With practice you begin to see grace more automatically. Being habitually thankful can balance the scale, lighten your load, and allow you to move forward joyfully.

Create a grateful habit

Here are six things you can do to cultivate gratitude:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal, pausing at the beginning or end of each day to name three or more things for which you are thankful.
  2. At least once a day, express appreciation and thanks to others, even for little things, and say it out loud--when we say something out loud it has more power.
  3. Once a week, write a handwritten note thanking those who are special in your life.
  4. Create visual reminders; place notes on your mirror, refrigerator, or elsewhere to remind you to be thankful.
  5. Count your blessings in prayer. Kneel before God's throne and speak your thanks to the giver of all gifts.
  6. Create a Gratitude Book. Collect quotes, prayers, inspiring stories and pictures to remind you of all the things for which you are thankful.

Practicing gratitude changes us into better people. Thankfulness helps us to see the blessings God has given so we can view life more positively. As you think more positively, your mood will improve and you can enjoy more of life. You may just find your glass filled to the brim.

About the author — Joy Bocanegra, MA, LCPC

Joy Bocanegra is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and works at Chicago Christian Counseling Center in their Orland Park location. She enjoys helping people work through various issues particularly anxiety, grief, codependency, relational difficulties, divorce recovery, and stepfamily concerns. Joy has a holistic approach to helping clients find healing and wholeness. Passionate about group work, she has facilitated groups on several topics including depression, body image, caring for aging parents, spiritual growth, and help for women whose partners have a sex addiction.

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