Thanksgiving is here!
For us, that means a bit of a fuller schedule and a whole lot of food.
(We’re a fan of the food.)
But this is the time of year when we become more intentional about coming together with friends and family to celebrate and be thankful for all God has provided.
But what if we consciously practiced thankfulness more than one day a year? A revolutionary thought, we know. What if thankfulness was just part of our lifestyle? What would that even look like?
Here are 5 ways to begin cultivating a lifestyle of thankfulness.
1. Practice Mindful Gratitude.
Being grateful isn’t always the easiest thing to do. It requires us to stop and notice.
It’s easy for us to become so consumed with what needs to be done, where we need to go, what we need to accomplish. But that keeps us from noticing the things around us that we should be grateful for.
As a kid, did you ever do one of those Thanksgiving crafts where you decorated a construction paper turkey with all the things you’re thankful for? Or maybe you had a teacher slather your hand with different colored paints that created the imprint of a turkey, and you wrote over the feathers in marker.
Most of the time, these types of things just make us laugh, because kids say the craziest things.
But maybe they are onto something. Most of the things on their list are so simple and ordinary. They’re things we have become accustomed to. We don’t even think to be grateful for them.
I’m thankful for my pillow.
I’m thankful for pickles.
I’m thankful for a house.
There’s so much we can be grateful for. But to live a life of thankfulness means we have to train ourselves to stop. Look around. See the many things and people you can be grateful for.
Practicing mindful gratitude can be as simple as being in the middle of a frustrating situation and thinking of one thing you’re grateful for. Just one. You don’t need to make a turkey sized list. In that moment choose to draw to the forefront of your mind one thing you’re thankful for.
It may also be helpful to keep a thankfulness journal (or note on your phone). If you are intentional about it, the list will grow very long, very quickly!
This is how we begin developing a spirit of gratitude in our lives. By practicing daily.
2. Keep Your Ambition in Check.
Ambition is a good thing. But it can also keep us from cultivating thankfulness if we let it. We spend our lives striving to become all that we can be. And that’s a good thing. We’re not here to advocate laziness.
But discontentment is not what God has called us to.
So we need to learn to have a godly sense of ambition, drive, and hustle. But we must never lose our sense of contentment with where we currently are. It seems paradoxical, but we believe it to be possible.
You simply have to ask yourself, “If I progressed no further than where I am today, would I still be joyful?”
That can be a heart-piercing question if we’re honest with ourselves. But if we’re willing to honestly ask it, it may help us keep our ambition in check as we seek to cultivate a lifestyle of thankfulness.
We can’t allow our dreams of tomorrow to make us ungrateful about today.
We need to see the goodness in where we are now. It will make us all the more grateful for what is to come later.
3. Stop Comparing and Coveting.
We’re certainly prone to compare ourselves with the idealized image of where we want to be. But even more often, we derive our satisfaction in ourselves by looking to our left and right to see how we match up with others.
What this really does to us is makes us dissatisfied and ungrateful. When you’re always longing for something else–something that someone else has–you can never be thankful for what you have.
Because what you have isn’t good enough. What somebody else has is way better.
But when we play the comparison game, we never win. Contentment isn’t found by looking to the left or right. It’s found by looking upward and inward to what God has given specifically to us. What he has entrusted to us.
4. Cut Out Negative Conversations.
There’s a reason why so many of us love reality television. It’s because we are drawn to negativity. Misery loves company. But perpetuating negativity is never healthy for your soul. And it never turns you into a grateful person.
Negative conversations are self-perpetuating. So choose to speak positively, even if the person you’re talking to only wants to be negative.
And if you’re locked in a conversation with someone who refuses to be anything other than negative, find a way to cut the conversation short.
This means that there are certain people for whom you need to limit your interactions. Maybe you’ll see them at your upcoming holiday parties. But be strategic. There’s only so much negativity you can endure before it begins to infect your heart.
An attitude of ingratitude is highly contagious.
5. Don’t Forget to Rest.
When we read about God creating the world, it’s striking that we see him rest at the end of it. This picture of rest is not from exhaustion or even being tired. It shows us that God stopped and reflected on the completion of his creation. He didn’t just move onto the next thing.
How many times do we complete a project and jump straight into the next one? Too often.
To rest is not only to cease from doing something, but to appreciate what has been completed. To reflect. We can’t keep jumping from one thing to the other without stopping in between.
When we rest, our mind and heart regain clarity. When we put life into perspective, we can see the beauty of what’s around us.
We really have something to learn from the phrase stop and smell the roses.
What God has given us is beautiful, but if we never stop to see it then we miss it. (We learned that lesson from Ferris Bueller, but we feel like it’s also biblical.)
Rest and gratitude go hand in hand. Because when we rest, life becomes a little bit sweeter and we notice the things we’ve been missing.
Thankfulness is something that must be nurtured. We don’t tend toward contentment and optimism. But there is no better time than right now to begin cultivating a lifestyle of thankfulness.
May God bless your thanksgiving and your entire holiday season. <3
Written Together by Dale & Tamara