“No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus“
(1 Thessalonians 5:18).
This is Paul’s encouragement to the faithful in Thessalonica. Be thankful, no matter what happens. Don’t be thankful because of your circumstances, but in spite of your circumstances (good or bad) be thankful! Why? Because God – who knows for more about life then we do – firmly believes that this is the best way for you to live in relationship with God. It is something that is hinted at repeatedly in the Bible. Being thankful is right up there with demonstrating our trust in God (through obedience) as the primary ways we build our faith. As our faith grows, so does not just our experience of God but also our awareness of God’s movement in our lives.
10 Ways to Cultivate Gratefulness (from Robert Emmon’s Tips for Living a Life of Gratitude).
- Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy. Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness.
- Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.
- Ask Yourself Three Questions. “What have I received from God?”, “What have I given to God?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
- Learn Prayers of Gratitude. Prayers of gratitude are the most powerful form of prayer, because through these prayers people recognize the ultimate source of all they are and all they will ever be.
- Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.
- Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Often times, the best visual reminders are other people.
- Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.
- Watch your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.
- Go Through the Motions. If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude.
- Think Outside the Box. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must creatively look for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful.