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Gratitude is something that I do not believe we talk about nearly enough. We emphasize it at Thanksgiving, maybe we even do the month of thankfulness, and if something truly amazing happens we talk about how grateful we are, but the rest of the time the idea of gratitude is placed on the back burner for most of us. However, as a Christian gratitude should be a conscious, intentional part of our everyday lives. Scripture speaks of this very plainly.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18)
It is God’s will for us that we would give thanks in all circumstances…all the time.
One of my favorite Christian authors and speakers, Rachel Hollis, does something she calls “Five to Thrive“, which is five things she does every day for a better life. One of those things is that she writes down ten things that she is grateful for every day. She says she intentionally tries to write different things each day and that most of them are small things, such as a song she liked playing in a coffee shop. Rachel talks about how if you look for the small things then you are constantly looking for gratitude, causing you to constantly feel blessed and changing your perspective. She also discusses how gratitude is an attitude and a choice we make daily.
What I Did
With all of that in mind, I decided to participate in a little “experiment”. For the month of March I kept a gratitude jar. This was simply a mason jar that I placed one slip of paper in each day with something for which I was grateful. I used colored paper because I wanted it to be pretty, because when things are bright and colorful I’m more motivated to do them. Sad, but true. I never allowed myself to repeat anything (or at least that was my goal). I also tried to follow Rachel Hollis’s suggestions of not listing the big, obvious things, rather I tried to focus on the smaller things that were specific to that day.
Here are a few examples of the things I wrote:
“A husband that will go to the movies with me even when he does not care for the movie”. I, honestly, don’t remember what movie this was, but what I do remember is that Adam made the sacrifice of his time to go to a movie that he really didn’t want to see. Note how, rather than just saying I am thankful for my husband, I said what specifically I was thankful for about my husband, causing me not only to focus on smaller details, but to actually have to put some thought into it.
“Chocolate!” This might seem like one of those bigger things that I said I was trying not to list, but this came right at the end of Lent, and I fasted chocolate during Lent. This was the first day I had been able to eat chocolate in quite a while, and I was very thankful for it. There may have even been some tears.
“Lazy days with Adam” This one is a great example of how this experiment changed my attitude. Adam and I get very few lazy days together. However, normally when we do have the chance to just spend the day lounging around, at the end of it I feel guilty that we didn’t get more done. However, this one came towards the end of the month, and due to already practicing an attitude of gratitude for quite a while, I was able to see this as a blessing rather than something I should feel guilty about.
This experiment was both easier and more difficult than I thought it would be. It was easier to think of things to be grateful for than I thought it would be for the most part. However, it was difficult for me to remember to do it. There were quite a few days where I would realize I hadn’t completed my “gratitude slip” for the past few days, and I would have to go back and play catch up. Obviously, those times were not nearly as beneficial as they could have been if I would have done them each day.
I said that it was easier to think of things to write down for the most part. However, there were a few days where I would come to the end of the day and stand over that slip of paper racking my brain for anything remotely good that had happened that day. Scripture speaks to these times too.
“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13: 15)
Sometimes praise and gratitude are a sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t still do it. Going back to the first scripture I discussed, it is the will of God for us to be thankful and to express gratitude, but God’s will is not always easy.
I haven’t kept up with the gratitude jar after this challenge ended. However, I have been more intentional about expressing gratitude. I now start my daily journaling time with a section of gratitude. After writing this and taking time to fully reflect on this experiment. I’ve decided to take Rachel Hollis’ advice in her “Five to Thrive” suggestions and start each day of journaling by listing ten things for which I am grateful.
How conscious are you of expressing gratitude daily? Is this practice something you need to adopt into your daily life?