Why Gratitude Works // How to Begin a Gratitude Routine & Journal
Learning the Art of Gratitude
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Hey there! I’m so glad you’re joining me today on the podcast. It’s already November, and we’re gearing up for another Thanksgiving season. November is known to be the month of thankfulness, and I love reflecting on the blessings in my life, but I don’t think it should be exclusive to Thanksgiving time. Gratitude is a trait we should adopt in our daily lives, and today we are going to talk about why gratitude works, what it does, and how to begin your own gratitude journal and journey.
I have so much to be thankful for this year!
2020 was a year none of us would choose to repeat (or so I am assuming), but for me it was a year of intense learning. I went on a journey discovering why it is so important for us to be critical thinkers and to understand how to search for the truth ourselves in things like life, politics, faith, and even education.
I changed my thinking in some areas and saw that some of my beliefs were actually wrong. They were part truths, which means they were not truths. The hardest thing is discerning a partial truth with the truth, and that is a crucial distinction to make.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Discernment is NOT knowing the difference between right and wrong. It IS knowing the difference between right and ALMOST right.”
That is exactly what my journey has looked like this year. Between all the false narratives being shared across social platforms and on the news, I set out to do my own digging.
Not only have I been on a learning journey, but we also moved from Minnesota to Colorado, uprooted our family, and began a new adventure in an unfamiliar place right smack dab in the middle of the Rona shutdown. As sad as we were to leave our extended family back in Minnesota, we can see exactly why God moved us, and we are grateful for it. The boys are loving their new gymnastics center and teammates, we are among the mountains that we have the blessing to see every day, and we have figured out how to slow down life to enjoy the little moments. I am no longer in a place of hurry, and I choose never to go there again.
Gratitude means, “the quality of being thankful; a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” I think this sounds like a nice quality to have, don’t you? Did you know God calls us to gratitude in all times and all circumstances? I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
It doesn’t say give thanks when you feel like it. It doesn’t say give thanks only when things are going well. It doesn’t even say give thanks when you have a praise report in your prayer requests. It says give thanks in ALL circumstances. That means when the going is tough. That means when you can’t see past your hardship. That means when your feelings don’t dictate a thanks. God wants us to praise Him in the storm and praise Him in the victory.
“Give thanks in all circumstances” is an imperative sentence, which means it’s a command. English lesson here: The action word is give, the direct object is thanks, and the subject is the implied you (sorry, I’m kind of an English nerd). “You give thanks in all circumstances.” It’s hard to do, though, isn’t it? It’s easy enough when things are going our way, and we aren’t encountering any bumps in the road.
When is giving thanks not easy?
It’s definitely not my first thought when my husband loses his job, and we have no idea how long we’ll be able to figure things out. It definitely wasn’t my first thought when I was so far down in my depression and couldn’t even see any light in the situation. It’s not really my first thought when the kids are fighting and loud and crazy and all mama wants is a break!
However, nothing in my life is worse than what Job experienced in the Old Testament. He was a faithful man of God, but he lost everything! His family, his health, his wealth, everything. Gone. Somewhat in a blink of an eye. He went from one of the most prosperous men of that time to the poorest and unhealthiest. All his friends tried to persuade him to deny Christ because of what he was experiencing, but he wouldn’t do it. He remained steadfast knowing the God who created Him would see him through, and even if his life didn’t improve, He was confident in his eternal destiny.
Would you give thanks in those dire circumstances?
It definitely wouldn’t be my first thought. Praise would not be my first go-to. It’s a learned trait, and it takes practice.
So why are we called to give thanks no matter what, even in poor circumstances? Because it takes our reliance off ourselves and places it back on God. It shows that we trust Him no matter what, and that we know He will get us through. He is our strength.
Gratitude also helps us learn the art of contentment.
Contentment doesn’t mean we stop striving in life, but it means we are content in the moment and don’t need things to be happy. Contentment is a heart condition, and when we are thankful for what we have, we see the blessings that we wouldn’t otherwise. Those who have a heart of gratitude naturally exude more joy in life, and joy is not something you receive from things. Joy is a fruit of the spirit given by God.
Paul learned the art of gratitude and contentment, and he taught it over and over again. He says in Phillipians 4:12, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
That kind of contentment sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
Have you ever had a really hard day and all you can think about is the negative that happened, and you kind of spiral down into that dark emotion of failure or hopelessness?
I hope it’s not just me who does that! Can you believe that gratitude can turn your emotions from negative to positive? The more you use it, the more positive you’ll become! It is a powerful tool that can be used to change your perspective on life. It helps you renew your mindset.
I’ve kept a gratitude journal for quite some time now, and almost daily, I write down at least three things I’m grateful for.
This is a great reminder to myself about the good in my life. It helps me put into perspective the trivial things I’m dealing with because, even though they seem insurmountable to me at the time, they are minor in the grand scheme of things. Gratitude helps me see that I have a great life already! I am in the midst of learning how to praise God in the storm, how to have gratitude in the storm.
Now, my journal is nothing fancy. It’s just a little composition notebook from the Dollar Store, but it does the job I want it to do.
I’ve learned many things from keeping this gratitude journal.
- I’ve learned that even in the worst of circumstances I’ve experienced, I have it so good! Life is good, and I am blessed.
- I’ve learned things could always be worse.
- I’ve learned that a positive attitude is a choice. It is a skill that can be acquired.
- I’ve learned that It’s hard to be negative when writing down gratitudes. Even if I was toxic at the time I started, by the end I’m usually more positive and see my situation or the person I’m struggling with in a better light.
- I’ve learned that the key to true joy is gratefulness! Gratitude helps me to focus on what is truly important in my life.
- I’ve learned that it helps me to see others in a better light. I’m quicker to forgive the wrongs I feel are against me when I write down something positive about the person who wronged me. I’m not as quick to judge, and it makes walking in love much easier to do.
- I’ve also gained clarity about what is most important in my life and about things I can and should let go of. It’s helped me simplify and hold onto less stress and worry.
Ultimately, gratitude helps me see that God is in control, and I can trust Him with my every worry and trouble, the good and bad.
My gratitude journal can serve as a mood lifter. When I’m feeling down, I can go back to it and read through all the things I’m thankful for, and my mood miraculously lifts, maybe not fully, but I feel better in the moment.
Have you ever kept a gratitude journal?
I remember a time a few years back when I was feeling stressed about everything and nothing seemed to go right. My husband and I weren’t really happy with each other, and I didn’t like him much of the time. I still loved him, and I knew we would figure things out, but I didn’t really like him. Do you know what I’m talking about?
He displayed many habits that frankly drove me nuts, and most of that was because of my own faults and really because I had become so busy that I had no time to stop and rest or be present with anyone. I wasn’t finding much joy in motherhood, even though I loved my kids. Many of the tasks I did just felt like a chore, and I didn’t have much thankfulness in them.
That is when I first began a gratitude journal, and I accepted the challenge to keep it for thirty days. I picked three categories in my life to write about, and each day for thirty days, I wrote one gratitude for each category. I chose to find one gratitude about my husband, one about my kids or motherhood, and one about my life.
If I couldn’t think of anything because maybe the day before was a hard day, or I was struggling with my mood, I sat there until I could find something to write down. Some days I had to really stretch to find something, but I always came up with something good to say.
Here’s what’s cool about that, I saw my mindset shift within those 30 days, and I began liking my husband again. I began seeing all the good habits and traits he exudes and began forgetting about the annoyances. I became more grateful to be the mom of my three boys and to see all the treasures they hold and the precious moments I would have missed otherwise. I began liking myself more and seeing that God could use me, and I didn’t have to be perfect. When I realized how good my life was already, I didn’t have to look to the future to try to get out of the present.
So … Because I know how gratitude works, I’m proposing a challenge to you.
I challenge you to just try it for seven days and see what happens! After my 30 days were up, I kept going! I haven’t really stopped. Almost every morning I sit with my cheap journal and write down gratitudes I found in the day before. I think you may also find this true for yourself if you start!
Here are some tips to consider before you start journaling your gratitudes:
- Pick three areas you want to focus on most. Is there anything that you are finding annoying in your life or places you just aren’t finding joy? Maybe start with those and see if you can’t change those annoyances into blessings.
- Be specific about the gratitude you’re writing down. Don’t just say, “My kids got along yesterday.” What did they do? Was there something specific? Maybe they sat and played a board game together for an hour, and you were grateful they were off electronics that long.
- Make your gratitudes about the day before. Don’t try to go too far into the past. Stick with your yesterday and find the good there.
- Don’t skip a category any of the days. I know sometimes it’s hard to come up with something, especially on those trying days, but if you dig deep enough, you will find something you’re grateful for. For example, I may have had a hard day with my husband and not liked him very much. Rather than skipping writing something that I’m grateful for, I will choose a character trait that I love about him, such as, “He always seems to find the good in me, even when I’m not the nice version of myself.” Here’s the kicker to that: It’s hard to stay mad at someone you just wrote something nice about.
- Be consistent. Don’t miss a day. When you are feeling like you don’t want to do it is when you need to do it most. I promise you, it will lift your spirits almost immediately!
I’m gearing up to begin a free 7-day gratitude challenge, and I’d love for you to join me!
The challenge begins on Monday, Nov. 16, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! You’ll get a cute gratitude journal download for the week that you can use, and each day you’ll receive a reminder email with some motivation and tips as you write your gratitudes.
You can also join us in the Red Hot Winners Community where we’ll post our gratitudes and hold each other accountable to get it done each day! We can share what we are experiencing throughout the week, and it’s a place you can ask questions as they come. I’m pretty certain after the challenge is over, you’ll be convinced to continue on your own and make a habit out of gratitude!
If you’re interested to join in the fun, you can register at bit.ly/challengegratitude. I’ll leave a link in the show notes as well. Feel free to invite a friend or two or three to join you! Challenges are way more fun when you’re doing them with friends!
Head on over to https://www. facebook.com/groups/redhotwinners to find the free online community as well. I’d love to have you in there and to hear how the challenge goes for you and what your takeaways are! This group is focused on mindset, accountability, and God-centered goals. It’s a great place to find encouragement and support as you learn your giftings and passions and use them to glorify the Lord.
That’s it for today! I hope you’ll register for the challenge and learn the art of gratitude with me! Until next time, I pray you just run YOUR race. I believe in you.
Step into the fire and come out stronger!
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