Have you ever noticed how gratitude doesn’t come as easily as grumbling does? We human beings don't seem to be wired for gratitude. If you observe human behavior, you'll see that our first impulse is too often grumbling. In Nebraska, we grumble that it is either too hot or too cold, too humid or too dry. We grumble about the Huskers. People grumble about their boss or co-workers. We grumble about the weeds in our neighbor's yard or the old jalopy that's been sitting in their driveway for months on end.
Yet, recently, in conversations with friends, I've been encourage to replace grumbling with gratitude. And, like anything else worthwhile, gratitude takes practice. You have to be intentional. Since grumbling is your go-to reaction to life, gratitude takes intentional action. So, let me share with you intentional steps that you can practice gratitude. Here are seven ways to start and continue the practice of gratitude.
One: Decide to give thanks. Because grumbling is easier, you will probably resist gratitude. You will find other things to do – even taking out the garbage - rather than giving thanks. So, make the conscious decision. Decide today that you are a grateful person.
Two: Begin. You know deciding and doing are two different things. I can decide to lose weight, but unless I stop eating French fries, that decision means nothing. So, just do it. Get out paper and pen, or sit down at your computer and write, "I am grateful for…" You might stop for a moment. Maybe nothing will come to mind. So, just wait. Surrender to the moment. Something inside you will shift. Words will come.
Three: Write it down. Now that's just what I said in number two – and it's important. There is power in writing it down. It helps you focus. If you just say it, you can be too speedy and insincere. So, take the time to sit down and either type out or write down three, seven or 12 things, people, events you are thankful for.
Four: Share the gratitude. Partner with one or more people to share your gratitude. You can pick one or more people to share you gratitude with. You can create an email list and daily email your gratitude to others who are practicing gratitude. Or, ask one other person to partner with you. Each day, read your list to each other. You will keep each other going. On the days it is harder to be grateful, a sense of accountability will motivate you to give thanks. Reading what the other person or people are grateful for will prompt you to remember similar gifts in your life. Share your gratitude.
Five: Practice present-moment gratitude. In addition to writing down (or typing) three, seven or 12 things, pause now and then during the day to say, "I am grateful." Maybe that's all you'll say. Or maybe you'll pause and think, "I'm grateful for that vibrant red maple tree." "I’m grateful for this hot cup of coffee." "I’m grateful for this person in front of me." Moving through your day with awareness and grace will mean that when you do sit down to write your gratitude list, gifts will come to mind.
Six: Don't stop once you start to see results. Life is different when you practice gratitude. One of my friends said that her whole life perspective changed in a really healthy way when she started practicing gratitude. Others find new energy for each day. Many people come to realize that actually their problems aren't so bad. And, many people discover there is much abundance in their lives. You see, your gratitude list is a bridge across the troubled waters in your life to a resting place on the other side. When you get to that resting place, keep practicing gratitude!
And, seven: allow yourself to be human. You might still grumble sometimes. You might miss a day here or there. Do not listen to the little voice saying, "You missed your gratitude list. You're a failure at being grateful." That's the voice of the temper speaking. Ignore it and forgive yourself. Start again the next day. And, if you honestly can't think of anything to be grateful for, write three times, "I am grateful I am writing my gratitude list." Yes, be grateful that you are practicing gratitude.
Once you start paying attention to things to be grateful for, you will find that you begin to appreciate simple pleasure and things that you previously took for granted. Your prayers will be filled with thanks to God. Gratitude will not be a reaction to getting what you want; it will be an all-the-time attitude, the kind where you notice the little things and where you constantly look for the good even in unpleasant situations. Instead of waiting for a positive experience in order to feel grateful, decide today to practice gratitude. Bring an attitude of gratitude to all your experiences. You will discover the fullness of life when you are grateful.