Hope For Tomorrow Counseling

2 Simple Gratitude Practices That Can Transform Your Outlook

by: Jim Urban, LPC.

Gratitude, mental strength, and realistic-positive thinking are all the rave in today’s psychological research. There is abundant evidence that many people today live bedraggled, anxious, depressed, and frustrated lives. The promise that some simply, daily acknowledgement of reasons to be grateful can improve one’s life beckons to all of us in times of difficulty and stress.

For years researchers have been telling us that gratitude is a key component of living a happy, contented, and peaceful life. According to Amy Morin’s article on Psychology Today gratitude has been demonstrated to result in better relationships, physical and psychological health, sleep, self-esteem, mental strength, enhanced empathy, and reduced aggression. Wow! That’s quite a promise; and yet, these promises are not new; they are in fact ancient.

The Bible contains numerous passages instructing believers to “give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 106:1 and Psalm 107:1), another Psalm (92:1) says “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praise to the Most High.” Other passages expound by giving us reasons to give God thanks:

  • His mercy endures forever
  • His favor is unending
  • His grace is enough
  • His goodness touches every human’s life

It’s so common to hear people say “we have so much to be thankful for” that it’s become cliche. The truth is we have to train our minds intentionally to cultivate an attitude of gratitude if we are to experience the promises of better health and improved relationships. So how can we do that?

1) Take Inventory of What is Going Right in Your Life

Here are some sample starter questions to get you thinking:

  • Are there people who love you, and whom you love?
  • Do you have a job, are you pursuing a degree, or are you raising children?
  • What’s your greatest strength?
  • Have you learned something this week that expanded your horizons?
  • Have you finished something, even if it’s just one thing, that can combat the false idea that your life is a complete failure?
  • What was something hard that you were afraid to do, but did so anyway?
  • How have you grown as a person in the past year?
  • What’s one kind deed you’ve done in the past week?

The truth is no one’s life is a complete failure or disaster. It may certainly feel that way from time to time, but the fact is we all do many things very well. Searching for the good in our lives, and the good things we’ve done, is the starting point for realizing the benefits of gratitude.

2) Appreciate the Good That’s All Around You

Here are some sample starter questions to get you thinking:

  • What’s one thing in the past 24 hours that brought you even a moment of joy? Perhaps your morning coffee? Maybe you were in a hurry and your shirt didn’t need to be ironed like you thought? Or maybe you noticed the beauty of a sunrise?
  • What made you smile today?
  • What do you like about the current season?
  • What freedoms are you grateful for?
  • How has God been merciful to you in spite of your mistakes?
  • Who in your life is your greatest inspiration?

The truth is adopting this way of thinking is hard. Our natural inclinations are to notice, obsess over, and stress out about all that is wrong or broken in our lives. The key to finding the happiness so elusive to many is to think like happy people do. This may sound forced or even fake, but I can assure you of this: if you appreciate the good all around you, and take stock of what is going well in your life, and you do this on a daily basis, you WILL experience more joy, more peace, your “goodness radar” will work better, and you’ll see God’s goodness clearer than you ever have before.

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