“Let the peace of Christ to which you were indeed called in one body, rule in your hearts, and be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
Much research shows that being grateful improves our physical health, from lowering our blood pressure to enhancing our immune system, our mental health, by making us happier, and our spiritual health, by making us more peaceful and joyful. Brother David Steindl-Rast, Benedictine monk and scholar tells us, “It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It is gratefulness that makes us happy.”
All too often I think we live just the opposite – we wait to be grateful until we are happy. It is so easy to see what is lacking in our life, what didn’t go well, and then miss all that we do have and all the good in life. Today I invite you to change your focus from counting your burdens to counting your blessings. Begin practicing gratitude and then see how it improves your happiness and your health.
6 Tips to Practicing Gratitude:
1. Do a nightly “gratitude examen” – look back over your day and bring to mind all that you are grateful for that day. If you like to journal – write it down in a gratitude journal. Reread your journal frequently to remind yourself of all the gifts in your life.
2. Commit to saying thank you to someone every day – either in person, on the phone, via text, email, or in a handwritten note. This need not take long – simply keep your eyes open for people who help you, are kind to you, lift your spirits with a smile, etc. Then take a minute to thank them – either on the spot or after the fact. A thank you is “never too late” and always welcome.
3. Instead of thinking about all the faults and failings of your body, notice and give thanks to God for all the amazing things it can do – see, hear, smell, taste, feel, walk, run, jump, dance, etc. The design of our bodies is truly incredible – the intricacies required for all we take for granted – like breathing, speaking, and smiling, are astounding.
4. Pay attention to the beauty around you – in nature, art, music, etc. Use your eyes and ears to notice and savor the magnificence that surrounds you. Thank God for these gifts.
5. Give thanks to God for your loved ones – family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, pets, etc. Instead of focusing on where they may be lacking, recognize their many gifts and how they help you, make your life better, and love you.
6. Pause before meals to consider and give thanks for the gift of the food you are about to eat, remembering all who made it possible, from the farmers, truckers, packagers, and store employees to the cook, realizing that many people are not as fortunate as you to have such nourishment.
What are you thankful for today? Please share below so we can join in your gratefulness. And feel free to add your ideas for practicing gratitude.