Sunday, November 19, 2017
Gratitude All Year
Once again we are almost entering that time of year when we are encouraged to remember our blessings and give thanks. I've noticed, however, that I am reminded year round to give thanks and value the offering of gratitude.
Benefits of Gratitude
Derrick Carpenter in his article "The Science Behind Gratitude and How It Can Change Your Life" notes that those who have a regular practice of acknowledging those things for which they are grateful:
- experience more positive emotion,
- feel more alive,
- sleep better,
- express more compassion and kindness,
-have stronger immune systems,
- have increased life satisfaction.
He continues that expressing gratitude each day can be as simple as writing down a few words, and putting the paper in a gratitude jar.
Write It Down
A feature in the Wellness section of a recent TIME magazine (October 2, 2017), "New Ways to Become Healthier and Happier," suggests, "Write a thank you note, reflecting on a friend's impact can brighten your day and theirs," and "Jot down what you're grateful for. Doing so has been linked to greater feeling of happiness."
Five Things to Smile About Each Month
The popular "O" magazine, Oprah's publication, features a whole page in each issue called "The Gratitude Meter." In the middle of the page is a circle with the phrase, "Five things we're smiling about this month." An arrow points to a paragraph that describe the gratitude represented in each photo.
We don"t have to write for Oprah to do the same, finding at least five things to smile about each month.
One of my favorite bloggers, Amanda Blake Soule (Soule Mama), has a new book that came out last month called The Creative Family Manifesto: Encouraging Imagination and Nurturing Family Connections. She devotes one chapter to gratitude and suggests trying a gratitude alphabet. "Write each letter of the alphabet on a large piece of paper and then decide something for which we are grateful corresponding to the letter."
Children and adults can enjoy this activity. Using the gratitude alphabet at various times of the year nurtures an awareness of thanksgiving.
Lilly Burana wrote "Cooking Up Gratitude" in the July/August, 2016, issue of Women's Day describing how cooking a meal for her family used to be a chore she dreaded. One day she remembered that Sunday dinner at her grandmother's house meant wonderful comfort food.
She noted her grandmother "enjoyed cooking, her skills honed as the young, widowed mother of six." Lilly remembered reading this poem on a plaque her grandmother had hanging above her sink.
"Thank God for dirty dishes; they have a tale to tell.
While others may go hungry, we're eating very well.
With home, health and happiness, I shouldn't want to fuss;
By the stack of evidence, God's been very good to us."
My Experience of Gratitude
I presented a talk in September to a group of clergy spouses about "Staying Together Through The Tough Times." One of my suggestions follow:
"Live with gratitude. Keep a list each day of things for which you are grateful. Gratitude offers a different perspective than reality - that all is not overwhelming and difficult. Gratitude encourages an awareness of God's presence, provision and faithfulness, and recognizes goodness even when life is difficult."
The Gratitude Drawer
Six years ago I went to an antique store in nearby Noblesville, Indiana, and purchased for five dollars an old, narrow desk drawer, just the right size to hold 4 x 6 index cards cut in half. (See picture above.) I stamped each day of the year at the top of the card. Underneath the date, I record in a few words my gratitude for that day. I look forward to the time I spend reflecting on the events, people or experiences I want to remember.
Every Day Throughout The Year
Making gratitude an everyday practice, not just in November when Thanksgiving is celebrated, can fill our hearts with God's abundant blessing. Try some of these ideas so that you might experience more positive emotions, sleep better, smile bigger and feel more alive.
For Your Reflection
1. How can you develop an awareness of those parts of everyday life for which you are grateful?
2. Writing in a journal or on index cards can be reminders of God's provision and goodness throughout the year. Try it!
Prayer: Thank you, God, seems inadequate to describe the way you provide for us. We read numerous examples in the Old and New Testaments how persons in seemingly dire circumstances were given provisions to survive and thrive just like you do for us today. Guide our hearts to offer thanks to you for your generosity throughout our days. Amen.