A few weeks ago I finally enjoyed a gift I received last Christmas. We waited ten whole months to see Ed Sheeran in concert in Kansas City. The concert was incredible; the weather was COLD. I had forgotten exactly how cold it can get in Kansas City and was dressed for the daytime weather, not for how cold it gets when the sun goes down. Also, the top of Arrowhead Stadium catches quite the breeze.
As I sat there shivering and thinking about how cold I was, I had to stop myself for a moment. Yes, I was cold, but how could I only complain when I was about to see one of my favorite artists in concert? So I purposefully shifted my focus and only let my brain think thoughts of gratitude. They didn’t warm me up physically, but they made me less miserable as I endured the cold weather. Switching my focus also helped me to be present and enjoy the concert.
Gratitude Cultivates Joy
Joy and happiness are wonderful feelings, but they can be a little scary to feel. We often dull our joy for a few reasons:
We’re afraid of the disappointment we might feel after the joyous moment is over.
We’re afraid if we enjoy it too much it will somehow get taken away from us.
We don’t lean into the joy because we’re too busy to stop and soak it in.
Practicing gratitude will not prevent feelings of disappointment. However, it will start to train your brain to look for what is still true, good, and beautiful when disappointment comes. Remember, it is not a bad thing to enjoy a good thing in our lives. If it is taken away from us, I truly believe the most disappointing thing would be to not have enjoyed it to the fullest extent while we had it.
Practicing gratitude keeps us in the present moment. It makes us look around and truly see what we have been blessed with right now. If we’re too busy to soak in joy, then we’re too busy. If joy feels like an interruption to your To Do list—stop. You will never regret the unfinished laundry or email that went unanswered because you decided to enjoy your life.
How to Practice Gratitude:
Notice your internal talk.
Philippians 4:8 speaks to this, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Do you naturally think about what is true, good, and beautiful? Or are your
thoughts consumed with worry, work, and what groceries you need? Pick out the topic or place in your life where it is the hardest to stay grateful. Start there.
Write your gratitude down.
There is so much research proving that writing things down is great for your
memory. Start your morning, or your work day off with writing down 3 things you are grateful for. Make sure at least one of them is something small and very much in the present moment. For an extra challenge, write something you find true, good, or beautiful about a situation in your life that you find generally undesirable.
Surround yourself with things that are true, good, and/or beautiful.
This could be a beautiful piece of art or a verse of Scripture in your office, kitchen, or living room. Memorize Scripture so that you have something true, good, and beautiful in your heart ready to be accessed when needed. When life gets ugly, it’s nice to have something beautiful to bring a little joy.
Gratitude grows joy and kindles hope in our lives. It brings us from scarcity mode, thinking there is never enough, to peaceful contentment with what we have. As Christians, we can always be grateful for Christ’s redeeming sacrifice that gives us abundant life. Practicing gratitude is a guidepost to truly experiencing an abundant life with Him.
Tell me, what is one thing you are grateful for today?
Meet the Author!
Phoebe is a therapist at Connect Counseling at Deaconess Pregnancy and Adoption, mom to the very lively Vivi and very chill Charlie, and wife to Jeff. You may spot her out and about at almost any Target in the area with a coconut milk latte in hand. She enjoys nonfiction books, Disney movies, and helping others find peace and healing in the hope of the Gospel.
This blog is meant to further the conversation about mental health and is not intended as medical or professional advice.