Often we neglect to take the time to notice and feel grateful for the vast array of things we have been blessed with in our lives. This week we will focus on feeling grateful for things we tend to take for granted.
How often do you actually take notice and feel grateful for the things you’re blessed with, big or small? How often do you express gratitude toward others or recognize something in life that you are genuinely grateful for? How frequently do you thank others for their kindness and show your appreciation, whether it is for someone who held a door open for you or a family member who was there in a time of need?
Feeling grateful for relationships and things we have in life are often unintentionally forgotten during life’s busy moments. There are so many things that we forget to appreciate that millions of others live without; simple things such as a car, good health, a home, the conveniences within your home, warm clothes on a cold night, a job, your relationships, your health, tangible and intangible wealth or something as simple as a pet to snuggle with and feel loved by.
Gratitude All Day Long
If you want to see positive outcomes in your life, try showing gratitude all day long. When you realize how blessed you are with what you already have, a cycle of endless gratitude and well-being is generated. It can take an already good life and move you to a whole new level of awareness. It can also take a challenged life and launch you toward becoming mindful of everything you do have to be thankful for. When you continually give thanks, you experience joy that is naturally shared with others. Your joy becomes contagious.
What you are grateful for can vary daily; some things are constant in your life and other things come and go in a fleeting moment. I realize that gratitude is not a cure-all, but it is dramatically underutilized and should be recognized as something extremely important for all of us to live by.
A Mission Trip
The first time I was significantly impacted by seemingly “small things” was when I was serving on a mission trip in a remote village in Guatemala. I saw firsthand what it looked like to have and live with the bare necessities of life. Unlike me, the people in this village didn’t have cars, televisions, cell phones, social media, IPads, IPods, fancy restaurants, a garbage collector to pick up their trash from the driveway or even hot water to take a shower. There were no air conditioners for hot days or heaters for cold nights. There were no sewer systems, running water to their homes or washing machines.
What the village did have: a large one-room building for all the children to learn in, a community basketball court where many gathered daily to share in social gatherings of laughter and love, and a large open field used to play soccer and all types of games that children and adults used for simple entertainment.
With no modern conveniences, it might appear that these individuals had almost nothing; but it was apparent they were grateful and happy for what they did have. The people I encountered were full of joy; they showed appreciation and gratitude for things I take for granted. They were truly content and exuded pure happiness with what they had. Laughter filled the air, children played together for hours, elderly individuals gathered together carefully listening and engaging in conversation late into the evenings with compassion and empathy.
Their smiles were soft and gentle; their eyes so genuine and pure. They were so simple and yet so complex. In the United States you don’t see many gestures from strangers that come close to the ones received by most in that tiny village in Guatemala. These people had something greater than all the material things we value. They had something that is so rare to find in our fast-paced society, something that helped cultivate their happiness. They understood and practiced daily the great benefit of showing gratitude for everything they did have.
After leaving Guatemala, I had a different understanding and appreciation for things to be grateful for. My life became more about noticing the seemingly small simple things; things that I could be thankful for and share my joy for life with others.
My Grandmother’s Journal
Two years after returning from Guatemala, my second light bulb moment occurred regarding the benefits of being grateful. My grandmother passed away during the summer of 2012. She, like the individuals I met in that little Guatemalan village, was truly a content and happy woman with what she had. I never quite understood how she maintained such a positive outlook on life until the day I started reading her journal, which she faithfully wrote in every day.
As I began reading each entry, I noticed she started each and every entry with “Thank you, Lord…” My grandmother was a religious woman and felt that everything to be thankful for started with the Lord. I knew she felt blessed for all she had, but there was something different about reading the things that she expressed thankfulness for. She had a heart of gratitude for things I simply took for granted: Holiday traditions, Sunday brunches, her “stair chair” that brought her safely from the downstairs laundry room and garage entrance upstairs to her living space, the view from her front window, trees, flowers, the beauty of the snow, a sunny day, a friend’s visit, Mother Nature, getting her hair done, phone calls from her children and grandchildren, her sewing machine, the Senior Center, water aerobics, listening to music, playing the piano, good health, being able to drive and be independent, laughter, praying for those in need, dinner out with friends, the 70 years she spent with her husband…
Reading entry after entry helped open my heart and confirm the benefits and meaning behind feeling and expressing gratitude. Through her wisdom, I learned one of life’s greatest lessons: To live a genuinely content, loving, compassionate and joyful life, I simply needed to express gratitude in all circumstances!
Today while writing this, I am personally grateful for my life. I am grateful for the opportunity to share FULLforLife with you. I am appreciative of laughter and support shared with the ones I love. I am thankful for the random smiles I receive from strangers that warm my heart. I am thankful for all the things I’ve accomplished so far in my life, even when they seemed impossible to reach and so much more…
Benefits of Living A Life of Intentional Gratitude
- When you live a life of intentional gratitude, the way you see your circumstances will change. Despite challenges, broken relationships, broken dreams or unfulfilled longings, your problems will seem smaller as you chose to appreciate what you do have and experience a sense of peace, calm and joy.
- When you embrace a feeling of gratitude for all the good you have, you will feel a sense of excitement and enthusiasm for what each new day has to offer.
- When you start using your imagination and become acutely aware of the gift of gratitude, you will feel more alive, happy and feel a sense of self-worth and well-being.
- Gratitude reminds us of the positive things we have in our life.
- Gratitude reminds us to recognize the positive people in our life; people who we sometimes take for granted.
- Communicating gratitude to others can help strengthen bonds and create deeper relationships.
- Gratitude can help build new friendships, relationships and can create healthier marriages.
- Gratitude helps us to realize the world is not filled entirely with misery and corruption. It allows us to be more resilient when bad things occur and helps us to keep an optimistic outlook during these times.
- Gratitude reminds us of what is truly important in life. It can help us become less materialistic. Remember the people who have so much less than you and feel blessed for what you DO HAVE.
- Gratitude helps us to be less self-centered and feel less envious of others.
- Gratitude strengthens our emotions, gives us a sense of self-worth and helps us bounce back from stress.
- Gratitude helps us create positive memories.
- Gratitude has been shown to improve energy, reduce depressive symptoms, induce relaxation and improve health.
- Take a minute, close your eyes and take a journey through the past day. Name two things you are grateful for.
- Start a “gratitude journal” where you can list at least one thing you are grateful for on a daily basis. Over time, take the opportunity to look back and see the multitude of things that bring joy into your life.
- A fun way to include your family is to have a "gratitude jar." Each evening encourage everyone to write down something they are grateful for and place it in the jar. Make time weekly or monthly to enjoy reading together all the various things you are thankful for.
- Think of one person who has greatly impacted your life and let them know how much you appreciate them and why they are special to you.
- Go out of your way to thank someone, anyone, today (and the next day and the next day...)
- The quickest and simplest way to create a lifelong habit of being grateful is to give thanks EVERY DAY. Make a commitment to think positive thoughts about what you have to be grateful for each night before you go to bed and every morning before you start your day. This will result in living with an “attitude of gratitude” and letting go of the negative in your life.
Personal Reflection and Self-Discovery Questions
- How do you express gratitude when something significant or life-altering takes place?
- What would it be like to feel genuinely thankful during difficult times?
- How often in the last week have you taken the time to be fully aware of your feelings and the depth of your gratitude?
- What, if anything, prevents you from feeling blessed in your daily life and expressing gratitude?
- If there is something negative you encounter this week, take some time to write down two or more things you are grateful for.