Living gratefully beyond a single holiday

How do we express gratitude when things don't go our way?
How do we express gratitude when things don't go our way?

What do you do to cultivate gratitude? What makes you feel grateful? Do you have to be intentional about being thankful and what are the possible benefits of gratitude?

It is that time of year again, when the leaves change color, and the trees paint the mountainside in exuberant shades of fall. People are drinking pumpkin spice lattes and decorating for Christmas. Around this time of year we start to focus on traditions. 

Most families have their own traditions around how they spend the holidays. Some families go to their grandparents' house and eat copious amounts of ham and turkey. Some families wake up at the crack of dawn and run a marathon. My family started a nontraditional tradition many years ago: We go to the Gulf Coast and get a condo on the beach. We eat seafood on the balcony and swim in the ocean. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I will trade a turkey for seafood and a pina colada every time. 

In my family's case we break the tradition of a typical holiday dinner. However, the meaning behind the holiday is not lost on us. We still celebrate and give thanks, but in our own nontraditional way. And that makes me ask this question: What if giving thanks was more than just a tradition?

What if being thankful was more than just a holiday tradition, and more like a daily ritual? 

It is easy to give thanks when you are sitting by a fire enjoying a slice of pumpkin pie, or in my case enjoying a drink on the beach watching the sunset. But it isn’t always easy to give thanks everyday. 

Not all days are sunshine and long walks on the beach. The majority of days are more like long drives to work through traffic and bad weather. A lot of days are mundane and filled with tedious tasks. And some days are just plain hard. Some days are sad, or scary, or depressing for all sorts of reasons. How do we give thanks when there isn’t something new, big, and exciting to be thankful for? 

I just read a post that said, “Enjoy the little things in life, because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” That struck a chord with me. I had just spent the week busy with exams, homework, my internship, and taking care of an eight week old puppy. Although I have a lot to be thankful for, giving thanks was not my priority. In fact, I was doing the opposite of being thankful. I was complaining about the amount of work I had to do, frustrated about interruptions caused by friends in need and then having to clean up puppy poop. When I read that quote, it made me take a step back and assess how I was reacting to my circumstances. 

Grateful in all circumstances

 

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 it says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God.” For me personally, giving thanks in all circumstances does not come easy. In fact, I have to be intentional about being thankful. God wants us to cultivate gratitude in all of our circumstances, not just one day a year. God wants us to be thankful because God knows it is beneficial for our well being to be grateful. 

So in those moments of cleaning up puppy poop, and getting stuck in traffic I need to remember to take a breath and give thanks. Even though those circumstances are not ideal I can still be thankful for the fact that I have a warm loving puppy, and a job that I enjoy. I need to remember that God wants us to live with a grateful heart. 

If you read through the Bible you may come to find that gratefulness is one of God’s love languages, and in fact God rewards those with a grateful heart. Deuteronomy 28:1-8 talks about all the ways God will bless you for having a grateful heart. Gratitude is more than just saying thank you. Gratitude is an attitude. It is a constant mindset of thankfulness. Scientific research and scripture both state that gratitude yields many benefits and blessings to an individual. For instance, having a thankful mindset improves your brain and physical health. Scientists say that gratitude is the healthiest human emotion. Being thankful creates happiness, and in fact it is even the cure for toxic emotions. 

God blesses those who cultivate gratitude into their life. Gratitude is another way for us to connect with God at an intimate level. As we prepare our hearts for this holiday season let us start to implement an attitude of gratitude into our everyday lives. 


Madison Myers is a student at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, majoring in marketing. She has traveled to a majority of America's National Parks and is eager to see them all.