I know it’s November so everyone and their mother is posting about all the things they’re thankful for, which I think is amazing and wonderful. However, I would love to see this culture of gratitude and thankfulness extend throughout the entire year. Because I think gratitude and having a gratitude practice is so extremely important, I wanted to spend the month sharing about why you need a gratitude practice, how you can have one, how you can teach your kids to be grateful, and so much more. So first out of the gate is the common myths of gratitude.
Can you imagine how different our world would look if everyone woke up the next day more thankful than when they went to bed the night before? Or if the person that hated their job found something in their work day to celebrate and be thankful for? Or if the exhausted mama of 3 under 6 could find a moment of her day to realize how amazing and wonderful her kids are, even when they’re throwing a meltdown in the middle of Target?
The impact one single word could have on our world is profound.
Gratitude. It really is life changing.
These are some of the beliefs I hear from people in regards to gratitude:
1. You can’t be thankful for what you have and desire more at the same time.
I have been so guilty of this one. I’ve been caught in this spot of feeling that if I desired more out of my life it meant I wasn’t grateful for what I already had. It was either be satisfied with where I was or desire more. I didn’t feel that I could truly be grateful for where I was and desire more at the same time. But I no longer feel that way. Right now in this moment I can be extremely thankful for the house I have. I can celebrate all of the parts of it that I enjoy. But that does not mean that I can’t dream of my future home. And I can begin to thank God already for the home I know will come in the future. When we begin to embrace thankfulness for the things of the past, the present, and the future, our thanksgiving transcends what we have or where we are at in this current state in our life. We can live with a grateful heart despite what the current circumstances look like because we can give thanks for that which is coming in the future or that which we have received in the past too.
Just a clarification….this is not “longing” for something. When we want and long after something, we create an attitude of dissatisfaction. Longing and wishing for something breeds discontent which in essence is the opposite of gratefulness.
2. Practicing gratitude creates a lack of motivation.
This one sort of ties back to myth #1 in the idea of desiring more and yet still being grateful for where we are. But it’s a little different. People I know who are the most grateful in their life, tend to be the most self-starting, highly motivated, high achieving successful people. Why? I think it’s due to the fact that they recognize each of their wins. They celebrate them. When you achieve something (even if it’s small) and you celebrate it and are grateful for it, you start to take notice of it. Then you start to see more opportunities to do it again, or maybe this time do it even bigger. If you have a major goal you want to achieve…maybe it’s to lose 50lbs or save $50k for a house down payment, those goals themselves can seem incredibly overwhelming. What I find happens most, is that people give up shortly after they’ve just got started. But the secret to keeping the motivation strong, is to celebrate each milestone along the way. It’s the awareness, celebration, and gratitude emitted in the progress that helps you to build momentum and go after those crazy big goals.
You drank enough water today AND skipped the soda at lunch, WIN! Celebrate that! You worked an extra hour and now have extra cash to put towards the house, thank you Jesus! It’s the magic of the snowball….once you get going, you gain momentum. With momentum you pick up speed. And with speed you begin to accomplish more than you ever thought possible. But it all started with being thankful and celebrating the extra $5 you found in your pocket jeans.
3. There are circumstances in life (adversity and pain) which make it impossible to find anything to be grateful for.
Unfortunately, in the day we live in, it doesn’t take more than simply looking to find a plethora of pain and suffering. Between cancer, sex trafficking, poverty, abuse, divorce…there is literally pain and suffering surrounding us. I’ve had people accuse me of living with an unrealistic utopia type mentality. But here’s the thing…I know it’s there. I don’t need to watch the news to know what’s happening all around me. In fact, I purposely don’t watch the news because of all the negativity, but that’s a story for a later date.
I know there’s pain. This world is nowhere short on suffering. But there’s someone reading this right now that is feeling so much pain they don’t know how to handle it. You might be sitting there wondering how you’re going to ever crawl out of the bottomless hole that you feel you’re in. Or maybe you’re sitting there and your heart is weeping for the children who are stolen and sold into sex trafficking to serve the disgusting pleasures of others. Even if any of those are you, you can find gratitude somewhere in that heart of yours. You don’t have to gloss over the pain or hide it in the closet of your heart. In fact, I highly recommend you sit with it, expose it, acknowledge it and let the light shine the heck out of that pain. Because that grateful heart and gratitude is going to help you lift your head and begin to fight. You’ll feel like you can face that adversity and pain that’s weighing you down. Gratitude is what helps you begin to see the finish line; you see the pain you’re in right now as just a part of the big picture of your story.
And maybe pick up Viktor Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning.
4. Practicing gratitude will instantly make me happier.
Boy, don’t we wish it was as simple as writing down 3 things on paper and instantly feeling overall happier in life. If it was that simple, more people would do it. We’re looking at a heart change here. Like any other habit in life, creating a habit and a new way of thinking takes time. It takes intention.
I’ll admit that many times I have a packed schedule. I have a million things on my plate at any one time. It’s not easy for me to stop, slow down and actually hear my daughter tell me the funny joke about “Uranus.” Yes, you can imagine where that one went. It’s not my natural inclination to wake in the morning and relish in gratitude over my warm comfortable bed (yes, I would stay in bed all day sometimes…if I didn’t have 3 kids).
It takes work. It takes practice. But trust me. When you begin to see life as a host of many blessings, you cannot help but feel happier. Even when we’re in the midst of pain and adversity, because girl, it’s gonna happen, we’re still genuinely happier. Not a rose-tinted glasses sort of thing either.
My friend over at Ancient Rhythms is hosting a 30 Day Challenge and on day 7 she shared about fostering the awareness of the small things. The every day moments that we miss when we’re caught in the rush and the busy. Practicing gratitude forces us to be intentional. It forces us to be present and take notice of the things around us and savor them. That is what creates true happiness in life.
5. It’s just an attitude of gratitude.
Have you ever run into that person who just radiates joy? They open the door for you, they smile at the cashier. Maybe they even strike up a joyful conversation while they wait for their coffee. This is not just some of the manifestations of an attitude of gratitude…but the actions that you take because of the inner joy and gratefulness in your heart. It truly is more joyful to serve and give to others.
Gratitude compels us to serve others. Maybe you serve the barista through your smile. Or maybe you donate to a special charity you love. (This has been one of my most recent favorites to hear about). If you’re struggling with cultivating gratitude, I challenge you to start here. Start giving. It can be your time, your money, your home. Whatever. Just take action. Set a goal for yourself to give something to someone every day.
Gratitude is just one piece to creating a life you love. But it’s an incredibly powerful piece! I created a downloadable journal with many of the tools I’ve used to create a life I love. And I love to send out gifts and tips via email. Just subscribe below!