Thanksgiving dinner table
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Do you sometimes think you have nothing to be grateful for? Well, think again. Gratitude is much more than a tally of honors and possessions. It goes deeper than that. Gratitude is an emotion in response to intangible as well as tangible gifts; it’s a state of being, a dispositional trait, and a character strength. Not only that, but gratitude – or lack of it – impacts our mental, spiritual, and physical well-being. In recent times, gratitude has been replaced by disappointment, anger, and resentment as people experience dashed hopes, financial difficulties, world turmoil, and loss of employment. Rather than focusing on the good things in their lives, people focus on the negative things. Add to that society’s shift away from God rather than to him, leaving people feeling empty and discouraged.

Gratitude and World Religions

Gratitude is an element that is woven into the tapestry of some of the top world religions. In Buddhism, gratitude is a reflection of the concept of interconnectedness which forms the web of life that sustains us. Faithful Jews start each day with Modeh Ani, a short Hebrew blessing thanking God for the gift of life. In Christianity, gratitude is directed toward God by recognizing the blessings he has bestowed upon us. This can take the form of blessing prayers created for food, family, life, and any other gifts and graces.

Gratitude’s Impact on Your Life

According to a February 2017 article in Positive Psychology, living in a state of gratitude increases life satisfaction, extraversion, and forgiveness, and fosters an aversion to detrimental behaviors such as substance abuse and neuroticism. There also is an inverse relationship between gratitude and anxiety and depression – the more we exercise gratitude, the less we will be anxious and depressed.

In the same light, those who regularly practice gratitude eventually assimilate it as a dispositional trait. It becomes part of who they are and all that they do. While they may have their worries and down moments, their overall tendency is to look for the positive in people and situations and see them as a gift from God. The more we are grateful, the more grateful we will become.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Keeping a gratitude journal can help. It can be a journal purchased from the office supply store to a plain notebook. The point isn’t what you write in; it’s what you write in it. On a daily or weekly basis, take some time to write down all the things for which you are grateful – large or small, major or seemingly inconsequential – it doesn’t matter. If it elicits gratitude within you, then it goes in your journal. Did you enjoy your morning cup of coffee? Write it down. Did you hear from an old friend? Meet a goal? Save money on groceries? Have fun with the kids? Survive a tough day? Write those things down. They are reasons for gratitude even if it was only for a fleeting moment. The format you use for your gratitude journal doesn’t matter, either, It can be a simple list of words or full paragraphs – whatever suits your fancy. The journal is solely for your personal use so you can tailor it to your individual preferences.

Studies on Gratitude Journals

Studies have shown that keeping a gratitude journal positively impacts motivation, achievement, and well-being. It can improve your outlook on life and your relationship with God. Gratitude is essential for a happy life and should be practiced daily. Your gratitude, when expressed to others, creates a snowball effect of positive effects on others and in turn their gratitude toward others. The possibilities are endless.

In the United States and in some other countries such as Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Liberia, Thanksgiving is an official holiday when families and friends gather to share a meal and give gratitude to God for all the blessings he bestows. That’s important, but Thanksgiving shouldn’t be the only day on which we express our gratitude to God. Every day should be a day of thanksgiving as we recognize the many ways God touches our lives with his grace and goodness. Even on days when you think there’s nothing to be grateful for, think again. We constantly are surrounded by God’s gifts; we just need to open our eyes and hearts to discover them.

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