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Why It's VITAL to Focus on Gratitude (+ how to actually do that in your daily life!)



Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! (A day late, I know.)


In this day and age, it is so easy to get swept up in all of the craziness and everything that we don't have. Even in my spiritual life, I often find myself asking God for things I want and need instead of coming to Him with complete and wholehearted gratitude. This has been something that I've been extremely convicted about, and my eyes have been opened to the effect that not having gratitude can have on my emotional health and my relationship with the Lord.


When we focus on what we don't have instead of everything that we're grateful for, then discontentment and doubt begins to stir in my heart. I begin questioning why God isn't blessing me or giving me what I'm asking for. The gifts He has given me don't seem like gifts, they seem like givens. Jealousy begins to creep in, and bitterness follows. My thoughts are a breeding ground for negativity. God feels far, my relationships are unsatisfactory, and nothing about my current situation seems like enough.


You see, a lack of gratitude isn't a surface level issue. It creates deep rooted issues - issues that can wreak havoc on our relationships with God and the people around us. It damages us internally and gives the devil a foothold in our lives. Not intentionally choosing to be grateful has consequences, but that doesn't mean that it's easy to live this out.


Our world doesn't encourage gratitude - even though it is so extremely vital to our health, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Like I said earlier, we're continually taught to focus on what we don't have, to strive for better, to never be satisfied, but that's not a godly perspective. That's not the way that the Lord called us to look at the world or at ourselves, and it's not the kind of mindset that Christ desires for us to have.


Instead, He calls us to celebrate all of the little things. He calls us to be thankful for the ways that He provides for us and blesses us. He calls us to worship Him with our hands held high, not only at a church service but throughout our day, and not only on the mountaintop, but in the valley as well. He calls us to be intentional about noticing the good things and everything that we do have, instead of focusing on the bad and everything we don't have.


This requires a purposeful shift in our mindset. It requires habits to be built and other habits to be broken. It's not easy, but it's not impossible. The Holy Spirit wants to work in us, cultivating a spirit of gratitude and joy. This transformation isn't one that happens overnight, or on our own, but there are some simple, practical things that we can start doing to shift our mindset and our heart.


1. Start a gratitude journal.

I truly feel like writing down the ways that you see God working in your life and the blessings that He has covered you with is such a powerful way to document your testimony. I love looking back in my journals to read how the Lord blessed me specifically in that season, and I've experienced the impact that simply slowing down and writing down what I'm grateful for can have on my heart.


When we take the time to jot down even a few things, we're shifting our mindset, and that brings so much hope. I've noticed that when I challenge myself to write down a few things, I can actually write down many more things, and my heart begins to overflow with the many, many good things. Even in the waiting and the valley, there is so much to be grateful for, and I've experienced how writing down the things I'm thankful for can make the biggest difference.


2. In the morning and before you go to bed, thank God for 5 things.

This is an incredibly easy way to train your mind to begin and end on the good, instead of continually wrestling with the bad. I'm working on developing the habit of thanking the Lord for 5 things right when I get out of bed and right before I go to sleep, and although it's a small thing, it makes a major difference in my mindset. It shifts my focus from the to-dos or all the things I have to be anxious over onto all the things I have to praise the Lord for. And then, as I go about the rest of my day or continue trying to fall asleep, my mind more easily falls onto things of the Holy Spirit, that which is pure, good, and joyful, instead of wordly, negative things.


3. Have a running gratitude list.

This is a habit that I've tried implementing multiple times, but honestly, it's a struggle to stay consistent. Especially when I'm running low on gratitude, though, I challenge myself to create a running list on my phone of all the things I'm grateful for. Then, throughout the day, I'll add more things. The intention behind this is to have a place to continually refocus on all of the blessings and look for them instead of letting all the beautiful, good things in life rush right by us. It's not necessarily an easy practice, although it is simple, but it most definitely trains your mind to fix your thoughts on what is above and holy and good instead of worldly things.


4. Start telling people that you're thankful for them.

So often, we miss opportunities to settle on our gratitude and share it because we simply don't think deeply about it. When a thought crosses your mind that sounds like "I'm really grateful for her help today", or "I really appreciate that kind word" or anything like that, we have an opportunity to fix our mind on a blessing and then pass it on. We have the opportunity to encourage someone else and remind them of the impact that they have on the lives around them, including our own, simply by telling them that we're grateful for them. This moves us to meditate a little longer on what we're thankful for, and then bless someone else, and that's a powerful thing.


5. Around the dinner table, talk about what you're grateful for with your family.

Communicate your gratitude with your people! When you're sharing a meal, whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or with your family, friends, or a bunch of strangers, start a conversation about what everyone is thankful for. It can be as easy as going around the table and saying one good thing that happened that day, but it refocuses the whole group on the blessings and creates a positive, uplifting conversation.


6. Worship, worship, worship.

Throughout the day, play worship music! In the car, as you're getting ready, as you're doing homework, during your Bible study, having worship music going. I know how impactful this has been for me instead of listening to secular music (which isn't inherently bad), because it subconsciously instills such more positivity and hope instead of negativity and sadness. It is refreshing to the soul, uplifting and rooted in the truth of who Christ is. Worship music not only is a blessing to you but refocuses you on all of the blessings around you, and that's exactly what we need when we're working on cultivating a spirit of gratitude. It reminds you of the goodness of God and His hand in every area of your life, and if that doesn't make you overflow with thankfulness, then I don't know what will!

 

Giving thanks is not something that comes naturally to most of us, and it takes intentionality to choose gratefulness and joy. But when we choose that, we are walking in obedience to the mindset that Christ calls us to have, fixing our mind on things above, and simply filling our soul with things that are uplifting and refreshing. Even though our culture doesn't exactly promote this kind of gratitude and contentment, there are some simple, practical ways that we can focus on thankfulness in our everyday lives.


What are some ways that you can practice gratitude in your life? How has choosing thankfulness impacted your life? Let me know down in the comments below; I love to hear from you!


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