This time of year, it seems like everyone is counting their blessings and giving thanks. But an attitude of gratitude isn't something we put on and take off--like the ill-fitting shirt we forgot was tucked away in our closet.
Because if we're not grateful outside of the Thanksgiving season, this gratitude that we try to put on will be ill-fitting.
Gratitude can't be confined to a season or holiday. Instead, it must have room and space to grow.
The first step to cultivate gratitude in our lives is to simply be aware. Did you notice the full moon and bright stars the other night? Did you see that little spark of joy in your daughter's eyes as she worked on artwork for your fridge? Did you notice how your husband took out the trash without you nagging him?
These are little things, I know, but that is how true gratitude starts.
The second part of gratitude is harder. It involves choosing a positive mindset. You can witness a thousand full moons and bright stars and be upset because it's too cold to be outside and enjoy them. Being positive means that you're thankful you have a window to look out at the beauty or that you have enough clothes to bundle up so you can be outside enjoying the sight. You can witness your child creating artwork all you want and still be upset that she's making a mess on your kitchen table. Or you can choose to rejoice that she loves you enough to expend energy creating something for you.You can have a husband who willingly takes out the trash, and still be upset because he forgets to wipe his feet on the rug when he comes back in. Being positive means that you're grateful for the work he does for you and that rugs are washable.
A positive mindset is not natural. It takes work and focus to build into a habit. But it's crucial to having a heart of gratitude.
The third thing that comes to mind when I think of gratitude is finding a source to thank. Obviously, the greatest Source of all good things is God. Simple thanksgiving is just breathing a "Thanks, God," in the moment--a quiet nod to Him saying that we noticed His gift to us.
But there are other sources to thank too. "Thank you for this picture you drew. It's beautiful!" "Thank you for taking the trash out tonight! It saves me time when I know I can count on you to take care of that!"
Gratitude isn't the attitude we try to slip into before we meet up with family for Thanksgiving lunch. It's not even the long, elaborate prayer that Dad offers while we sit around a steaming table loaded with deliciousness.
No, gratitude is something that starts slow and builds, becomes a habit and then a lifestyle.
Anytime--including Thanksgiving--is a good time to start building this habit.