The Habit of Living with Gratitude

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With the pressure of trying to balance school, work, friends, and family, life can get overwhelming very quickly. We tend to lose perspective and surrender to the mundane without a fight. We forget to acknowledge the good and instead focus on the bad. And our emotional, physical, and spiritual health suffers as a result.

Author Ann Voskamp, in her book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (2010), reflects on the importance of intentionally embracing a lifestyle of gratitude. She challenges her readers to really look at life and find the good in it. Her book summons us to literally count everyday gifts – all the way up to one thousand – as a simple way to “move our focus beyond the burdens of life to the blessings of now”. It takes discipline, but gratitude is good for our bodies, our minds, our spirits, and our relationships.

Practicing gratitude means being thankful, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It is learning to live as if everything were a miracle and being aware on a continuous basis of how much we’ve been given. Living a life of gratitude does not mean that life is perfect. It also does not mean that we live in denial of the burdens that we carry or somehow rise above the challenges that we face by choosing blissful ignorance. Rather, it is simply affirming that there is good to be found in our lives even in the midst of chaos and difficulty. It shifts our focus from what life lacks to the abundance that God has given us. In addition, the practice of gratitude causes us to acknowledge that the source of this goodness that we experience comes from outside of ourselves – namely God – and is not necessarily the result of anything we did to deserve it. And the result? Living a life of gratitude makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and it reduces stress.

So, how do we begin to practice this life of gratitude?

1.       Look for small God-gifts to be grateful for.
A beam of sunshine through the clouds. Small acts of kindness. Toast with jam piled high. Spring’s first blossom. A smile from a stranger. The smell of clean laundry. The morning breeze.

2.       Start a gratitude journal.
Write down every day a list of three to ten things for which you are grateful. You can do this first thing in the morning or before going to bed at night.

3.       Name the gifts.
In other words, say them out loud. Ann Voskamp writes that “to name a gift is to manifest the meaning and value God gave it.” She goes on to say that when we “name” the gifts, we go back to the Garden of Eden and remember that when God spoke a name, He called it into existence. By speaking aloud the moments that we are grateful for, we acknowledge that these gifts come from God.

4.       Challenge yourself to keep a list of 1000 gifts!
My challenge to you: slow down, taste life, see God.
~ Sara and the Wellness Center Team

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