“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:” Psalm 92:1
I understand how important it is to practice gratitude, and to thank God not only for my blessings, but also for the challenges that we receive. Every experience we have in life is designed to leave us stronger and wiser than we were before. But sometimes it’s hard to be thankful for all of our challenges and trials. Gratitude is very different from positivity though. Positivity can be things like thinking “Just keep smiling!” or “Keep Calm and ___(fill in the blank)___ on!” While these kinds of platitudes seem helpful and even empowering on the surface, in reality they are empty and meaningless. Imagine telling someone whose home and town has been turned into a war zone to “Keep Calm and Carry On!” or saying to someone with chronic depression “Just keep smiling!” This kind of mindset is what we would call Toxic Positivity. Gratitude on the other hand, allows us to acknowledge the struggles we are facing and still find the blessings within the struggle. When my husband and I first started trying to have kids, I had a couple of miscarriages before I was able to get pregnant with our oldest. In fact, he was my third pregnancy within the timespan of a year. That was rough. My body and soul were depleted going into his pregnancy, and I often felt despair through the course of that year. I didn’t know what I had done to deserve that heartbreak, or why God had decided to send it to me. Then getting pregnant (with an extremely difficult pregnancy) left me with a confused jumble of emotions – gratitude for my baby, fear of getting attached to the pregnancy, anger and confusion about why this was all happening when it did – and I struggled a lot. It was hard to find things to be grateful for, but one that stayed constant was my gratitude for my husband. He was then, and has always been, a rock of stability and security for me.
What is Gratitude? Some people define gratitude as a feeling that comes to us as we receive gifts or things that we like. Other people might say that it is the practice of expressing appreciation for our lives and circumstances. Leaders in many religions though, might define it differently. More than just a feeling, or a sense of appreciation, gratitude is a conscious life choice to look beyond what we may be experiencing or feeling in a moment and choose to be thankful even in our trials. Making an active choice to be express gratitude to God for His mercy and care can lead us to better mental health, and will strengthen our relationship with our Heavenly Father. So how do we practice thankfulness and gratitude? One option is to “count our blessings” – naming off things that we can see and experience in our lives that give our lives meaning. This is an easy way to start getting into the habit of expressing gratitude, but it is more difficult to do during times of trial. How do we express gratitude when we are in the middle of a depressive cycle? Or overwhelmed by anxiety? Or in a mental health crisis? When our lives seem to be falling apart around us? It is harder to practice thankfulness during those times, but it can often be those circumstances that cause us to need gratitude the most. How to Practice Thankfulness and Gratitude during Trials and Tribulations · Praying in the name of Christ. Prayer is an opportunity to pour out our hearts to God, to truly commune with Him. I’ll give more detail about how I pray after this list! If you're not Christian, then praying sincerely to who or whatever you worship is also a good thing. I'm a big fan of developing a lifestyle of devotion, even if the devotion YOU practice isn't the same as mine! · Listening to hymns and songs about gratitude. When my family is in a funk that has us quarrelling and fighting with each other, I like to play sacred music to help change the mood in the home. If you have Amazon Music, then The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has lovely collections of hymns that bring the Spirit of God into your home! · Reading the Scriptures. Whether it is studying the same topic for a period of time, or reading from a chronological order, reading scriptures can help us to see that many of the trials we face are simply normal to the human condition, and the way that God provides for His children through those trials. · Keeping a Journal for Gratitude. This is one that I have found to be helpful, especially when I’m feeling depressed and overwhelmed. Trying to keep a running list in my head can add to the anxiety and depression that I can often feel, so I like to write things down, either on paper or on my phone.
Tips for success in topic 1 When I pray, there is a series of steps that I follow. I start by addressing God – “Dear Heavenly Father”, or “Heavenly Father” or even “Our Father who art in Heaven”. The next step is important, because it can seem counterintuitive to our natural desire, but the second thing that I do is thank Heavenly Father for the blessings I recognize in my life. I try to spend at least half of my prayer expressing gratitude. After I’ve thanked God for His tender mercies in my life, I then go on to spill the thoughts and desires of my heart that are burdening me. I pray for my husband, my children, my business, the country. I pray for the families displaced by violence across the world. Whatever is burdening my mind and soul. When I’m ready to finish my prayer, I end in the name of Jesus Christ. By following this simple pattern I’m able to keep my expressions of thanks to God in the forefront of my mind. Often while I pray I keep a pen and paper near me, so I can write down answers and inspiration as I pray. I like to combine these prayer notes with my gratitude journaling, so I can keep everything in one place. By keeping my gratitude entries in the same space as my prayers, I can look back and see the Lord’s hand in my life. I’m not always great about keeping a journal, but I am trying to get better about it. These journals are not only important for ourselves and our personal journeys with God, but they are also valuable to our posterity. Some people are anxious about the prospect of someone reading their deepest and darkest feelings, but when we are old and gone, and our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are going through similar trials, they can find comfort and hope through our journey. Last Things to Know about Practicing Gratitude This isn’t an “all or nothing” kind of thing. Pick one new thing you want to change, and work on it for a few months. I find that creating a new habit for myself usually takes about 6 months of effort before it fully clicks into my brain and becomes part of my life. Also, give yourself grace and space to be imperfect in your efforts. Christ commands us to be perfect, but none of us can be perfected overnight. Becoming perfect is a process, and it can only be done through the grace of Christ.
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