A thankful heart won’t just happen.
If I’ve learned one thing while studying what the Bible has to say about gratitude, it’s that we are by nature ungrateful people.
Our inclination is to grumble, to see the lack in life rather than abundance and to take everyday gifts for granted.
Instead, we need to choose gratitude.
But developing an attitude of gratitude takes intention.
Great, one more chore to add to my already too-long to-do list, you may be thinking.
Let me assure you, this will not be a chore. Taking a few minutes to practice daily gratitude is not only easy, but will change the way you see the rest of your day.
In fact, it will change your life.
7 Ways to Practice Daily Gratitude
We can cultivate gratitude a variety of ways. I’ve done most of these at some point. Some started spontaneously as God began tendering my heart to give thanks and some were deliberate steps that have become daily rhythms.
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Let’s look at 7 ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude
1.Keep a daily gratitude journal.
This one gets top billing because it’s so effective. I started keeping a gratitude list when I desperately needed to see good in a world that felt so bad. I was a sudden widow and single mom to seven.
Recording my daily thanks didn’t change my circumstance but it changed me in the circumstance.
I saw, just as scripture promises, that God is good. God wasn’t keeping good from me but His goodness was all around me. Writing it down each morning forced me to look back over the preceding day and see the good. Gratitude is an indispensable key that’s helped me move forward in grief.
Grab a spiral notebook, get a pretty journal or get this free Grace and Gratitude journal. Then each day, record 3 or 5 or 7 things you’re thankful for. You can find learn more about keeping a gratitude journal here.
2. Turn frustrations upside down.
A pipe suddenly breaks spewing water all over the bathroom. You come home after a long day to the remains of meals and snacks dirtying the kitchen you left spotless. Just when a work bonus will put you financially ahead, the AC goes out.
When situations tempt us to complain, we can turn them upside down with gratitude. Here’s how it might work:
- Yes, the pipe broke but thank you Lord I was home, I could turn the water off and I got help.
- Yes, my kids should have cleaned the kitchen but thank you God for my children! Thank you for a pantry filled with food, running water, electricity and two hands to clean.
- That work bonus? Sure would have loved something on my wish-list but thank you God for preserving the AC until we had money to replace it.
3. Start prayer with thanksgiving.
My needs are so pressing and left to myself, I’d start my prayers ticking right down the list.
Pushing pause on my list and starting prayer with thanksgiving instead gets our eyes off our circumstances and onto God. Thanksgiving reminds us who God is and how faithful He is. It’s an offering, the first fruits of our lips, orienting our heart to the Giver, instead of our needs.
4. Capture gratitude in real time.
I’ve noticed one downside to journaling my thanks each morning is sometimes forgetting what God has done. While I strain to reflect back over the preceding day, I know I miss some things.
That’s why I sometimes leave my gratitude journal open on the kitchen counter to record thanks in real time. I’ve also jotted thanks on my calendar. Keeping my journal open helps me see and capture all the good God is doing through the day.
5. Write thank you notes.
I’m not referring to the kind we send after receiving a gift, but a note sent to a friend, mentor, pastor or family member who’s blessed us. Who’s impacted your life? Who needs to hear they’ve made a difference? Do our parents and our children know how grateful we are for them?
Don’t wait to say thanks.
We can share how grateful we are to those who’ve blessed us through a letter, card or even a text.
My friend Kellie Haddock took this a step further. Ten years after a tragic accident killed her husband and critically injured her newborn, Kellie went back to the hospital, nurses and doctors who saved her child’s life to thank them. You can see her Thank You Project here (have tissues handy).
6. Give God thanks in advance.
Last year, an MRI on my son’s back for what we thought was a pulled muscle showed a lemon-sized tumor on his spine. While we waited through the weekend for answers, fear rushed in. As my mind swirled with worry and possible scenarios, I began to thank God in advance.
I didn’t know the outcome, but I didn’t have to wait to see that God would be faithful. He had not gotten us this far to drop us now. That weekend, I thanked God in advance for His guidance, provision, sovereignty, help and goodness. Cultivating gratitude in the hard helped me rest and trust as we waited.
7. Keep stones of remembrance.
God commanded Israel to remember the wonders He’d done. He established a Passover feast at the beginning of each year so Israel would remember how God had redeemed them from Egypt. Exodus 12:14; 25-27
And when God divided the flood-stage waters of the Jordan River to let the nation of Israel cross to the Promised Land on dry ground, God commanded Joshua to take 12 stones from the river bed to set up as a lasting memorial.
“Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan” …And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”’ Joshua 4:2;20-24
God knows we need something physical to remember what He’s done. When God answers a prayer so personally or does something incredible, we think we’ll never forget. But time ticks on and we forget.
Keeping actual stones with notes and dates of what God has done helps us remember and thank God for his goodness.
A thankful heart won’t just happen, but we can sure cultivate one. God commands it and we desperately need it.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1