Thankfulness absolutely matters.
Consider for just a moment the benefits of a thankful heart:
- A thankful heart breeds contentment. It appreciates the many gifts of life itself.
- A thankful heart promotes optimism. Optimism leads to enthusiasm and determination.
- A thankful heart brings healthy attentiveness. It finds time to slow down and count blessings.
- A thankful heart shifts the focus of attention from ourselves to others. It understands that our lives have been enriched by them.
- A thankful heart is more likely to help others. It humbly realizes it has benefited from others and as a result, is more apt to notice needs.
- A thankful heart attracts generous people and faithful friends.
- Studies have found that gratitude results in better physical health and mental awareness.
- Gratitude heightens enjoyment of the good seasons of life. And provides strength to make it through the difficult ones.
Unfortunately, gratitude can often be very finicky. There are seasons of life where gratitude is easy. When your home is warm… when you are eating a delicious meal… when your child’s report card is impressive… when everything is lining up exactly as you envisioned, it’s really easy to be thankful.
But other times, it remains elusive. When the storms of life hit – as they always do – thankfulness doesn’t come so quickly. It’s hard to be thankful when your world is crashing down. And yet, those are the days that we most need it… those are the seasons of life when its strength, optimism, and perspective carry us through. But when thankfulness is most needed, it is often the most distant.
This reality is because we have mistakenly begun to consider gratitude an emotion of the heart – as just another response to our circumstance. When things are going well, it’s easy to respond with a thankful heart. But in the seasons where it is most needed, thankfulness never even enters our mind.
We would fare far better if we learned to consider gratitude a discipline of the heart – one that requires attention and consistent practice. It requires practice when it’s easy and even more practice when it’s difficult. And the more we train ourselves to that end, the more we are able to access it when we most require it.
Some helpful thoughts to spur us on in this new discipline of the heart may include scheduling 5-minute periods of thoughtful thanksgiving each day, intentionally finding gratitude in simple joys, reflecting on the past (particularly if your current season of life is a stormy one), keeping a gratitude journal (on-paper or on-line), expressing thankfulness during life’s little inconveniences (red lights, doctor waits), or seeking the perfection of each day.
It can become a truly life-altering designation. Gratitude is a discipline, not an emotion.