How to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
I grew up hearing my dad exclaim this over and over in our house. He was claiming his daily dose of gratitude, like a self-fulfilling prophecy; setting the tone for his heart for the day ahead.
My upbringing in a household that had a reverence for God’s word meant that gratefulness was just a part of who we were. Complaints weren’t welcome.
Giving thanks and having a grateful heart are woven into scripture so that we are reminded it should be our first response to whatever comes our way.
Does that mean we were always happy? No. Did that mean that we didn’t have problems? Of course not. We were F A R from perfect, but because gratitude breeds contentment, my parents’ grateful hearts helped us be content with what we had. Although we had very little, most times it didn’t seem to bother us.
“Gratitude turns what you have into enough.”
A low point that comes to mind was when my parents had to cash in a $50 savings bond that my grandmother had gifted me for my birthday to buy groceries for our family.
I can’t imagine the kind of stress my parents felt at that time (and probably many other times I didn’t know about as a child), but I don’t remember hearing them complain. They were thankful we got by during some hard times, even if it was by the skin of their teeth.
Fast forward into my adult years, I am the first to admit that looking at the bright side of things can be challenging. Life is hard. Many of our situations are out of our control. Not everything goes as planned.
Looking through a lens of gratefulness isn’t easy when you add much of life’s curveballs that are thrown our way. But it’s not impossible. And I’ve been reminded it’s a choice.
I have to choose to be grateful each day, because if I don’t take time to do so, the blur of the day gets away from me and it’s easy to feel like I barely got by at the end of the day.
Sometimes a feeling of defeat that can creep in. Or comparison. But when you remember that you have choices in the matter of how you look at things, your focus can shift on the blessings in life and some of your “problems” can seem so minuscule in comparison.
That’s the secret about gratitude; gratitude provides perspective. When you are truly grateful for what you have (employment, a great friend to confide in, a roof over your head), everything else pales in comparison. There is no room for complaints when you realize how good you’ve got it.
When you have a content heart + perspective, there is a trickle-down effect into different areas of your life.
Although there are lots of studies that point out the benefits of gratitude (my favorite one being https://www.happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/), my personal experience has been a better understanding of people (especially misunderstandings/misalignment of expectations).
With the right perspective, it’s easier to forgive others, it helps diffuse heated conversations/situations. It makes me less reactive, more empathetic.
In general, it lightens my heart, knowing that things could always be worse. This affects my marriage, my parenting, my friendships. Contentment + perspective (aka gratitude) also naturally turns my eyes towards others, focusing less on myself. Again, this doesn’t mean I’m the perfect friend, wife, or that I don’t struggle with selfishness. I have to remind myself daily to keep things in check because of all of the positives in my life (and some days I fail miserably!).
Just because gratitude was engrained in me as a result of my spiritual upbringing doesn’t mean that everyone can’t be grateful!
EV-ERY-ONE, regardless of background can reap the benefits of pausing each day to reflect on a few things for which they are grateful! It’s FREE. It’s EASY. And it can CHANGE your outlook on life.