Have you ever found yourself disappointed, discontent, wanting more stuff, dissatisfied, or perhaps growing bitter? Due to suffering and loss, this is where I found myself.
I didn’t like where I was; I knew something had to change in order to refocus my heart and attitude. Fortunately I already knew what was needed. Perspective. I needed a new perspective. I needed to shift my focus from disappointment to gratitude. This article Transformed by Gratitude was my first nudge; I knew the Lord was prompting me to start a practice of gratitude. A friend mentioned a meaningful book; this was another nudge. After several nudges, I ordered a copy of the book One Thousand Gifts, bought a gratitude journal, bought another for our family, and found an app for my phone to further my new practice.
I must confess that the ‘nudge’ to start a gratitude practice and actually implementing one, took me from October to February. Often, we can know what we should do but we don’t always do it right away, sometimes never. I take comfort in the fact that it’s not just me, Paul writes, in Romans 7:25, about this human condition. Romans 7:15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. I take comfort that I am not alone. Thankfully I eventually started!
I noticed immediate results of my new gratitude practice! With my new journal in hand, my husband and I went out for lunch; we discussed and recorded things we appreciated, both small and large. As we did this, my perspective transformed and we had a great time together. That date continues to be memorable because the results were so tangible. I find the act of logging gratitude to be significant. Not only is the list great because it provides focused activity, but having a record to refer back to is really special. In addition, just spotting my journal on the desk provides a tangible reminder of gratitude, which routinely turns my attention to good things.
Results and Outcomes
Here is what I found. One Thousand Gifts is a wonderful challenge (see her blog.) The reminders to look for things we take for granted, like jam on toast or light streaming through the window are very poignant; when you actually start to look, to see, to focus. . .there really is so much to notice and be grateful for. Perspective.
My Gratitude Journal. My goal is to record One Thousand Gifts I am grateful for. I now look for opportunities to be grateful; this centers the focus of my mind and heart, resulting in contentment throughout my life. I started to notice that if I am restlessly searching for “that one thing”, this is a signal that I have been ignoring my practice of gratitude; for me there is a direct correlation. Perspective.
My Family. My journal has pages for each of my children; a list specifically grateful for their qualities as individuals. My husband and I intentionally brainstormed these lists together. (It was a wonderful date. Try it!) Since all my children are teenagers, it’s helpful to have a tangible list that I can refer to when I’m frustrated. I’ve noticed that when my attitude changes, the tone of our relationship changes. Perspective.
We also have a family journal we use during dinner time to record our daily gratitude. My hope is for my kids to continue this practice someday individually or with their own families.
Gratitude practice not only changed my perspective, it has blessed my life in other ways too.
Sleep Aid. Now that I am living in the land of middle age, I sometimes struggle with sleeplessness. I discovered a remedy when I started reciting my gratitude list. Sometimes I will picture a room in my home in order to create a specific list and mentally work my way around the room . . . drifting off to sleep. Let’s face it creativity is limited in the wee hours of sleeplessness.
Passing It On: My gratitude app has a reminder tone; when it goes off, I ask those around me what they are grateful for. In addition to the reminder, this enables me to share my story with others as I explain the purpose of my practice, sometimes with my peers or perhaps a group of teens around a campfire recounting the blessings of today. We all benefit from practicing gratitude.
Back to the reason I started all of this: My perspective has changed. I am truly blessed. Now I see the joy in the journey. My past has not changed but I have. Today I am grateful for: #183 the ability to fold warm laundry on a cold day, #184 a reminder of how much gratitude has changed my life, and #185 that I can share my message. I still have a ways to go, but will continue my journey toward recording one thousand gifts in my little green journal.
In writing to the Philippians, Paul said it quite beautifully and succinctly:
Philippians 8-9 Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (version: The Message)