November brings with it the flurry of falling leaves, cooler temperatures and holiday preparations. We celebrate Thanksgiving during this long month before December and, unfortunately, this under commercialized holiday is often overlooked and gets swept into the rush of Christmas preparations. This is unfortunate because the emphasis Thanksgiving brings to what is going on inside our hearts is the perfect preparation we need for the coming of the Christ.
Instead of preparing our hearts for Immanuel, the 40 days leading up to Christmas are more often spent in a frenzied rush to meet too many expectations and obligations. It seems November and its emphasis on Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to consider all the many things we have for which we should give thanks. The challenge is the “joy” of the holidays can often crowd out our gratitude and hijack our attitude. This is where the challenge of choice comes into play.
We can choose instead to adopt an “attitude of gratitude.” This one simple habit of choosing gratitude can literally change your life. Instead of being overwhelmed by your to-do list and full calendar, pause and reflect on the blessings that you might overlook. As you begin to take note of the blessings around you, the list moves from the mundane to the magical. You eventually begin to see your life with new eyes. What started with gratitude for everyday blessings such as health and family, grows much deeper and stronger as your list grows. You suddenly remember how much you love the twinkle of streetlights when it rains, the smell of chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven or the feel of your child’s soft cheek against yours. This new habit becomes a new way to see the world.
Here are 4 reasons to make gratitude a habit:
1) Gratitude improves your health.
Studies show that fostering gratitude will improve your physical, mental and social well-being. It can strengthen your heart and immune system as well as decrease blood pressure. We can all certainly use a free and easy way to improve our health!
2) Gratitude improves your relationships.
When you develop an attitude of gratitude you are more enjoyable to be around. People like positive people. When you learn to recognize the good around you and call out the positive in a situation, you become more attractive to be around.
3) Gratitude decreases stress.
There will always be circumstances in your life that cause stress. When you choose to focus instead on the good things and blessings in your life it steals away the power of those stressors. You are maintaining control by focusing on the positive and choosing gratitude.
4) Gratitude draws you closer to God.
The Bible is full of verses that command us to “give thanks.” (Psalm 100:4-5, Psalm 118:29, Psalm 9:1) It doesn’t tell us to give thanks when you feel like it. It actually says in I Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Even when circumstances don’t look or feel good, we are commanded to give thanks. This isn’t always easy to do, but when you have practiced an attitude of gratitude during good times, it is much easier to look around and name His blessings even during those very tough times.
Ann Voskamp wrote a whole book, One Thousand Gifts, about adopting a lifestyle of gratitude by journaling daily three things for which you are thankful. Research shows that recording what we are grateful for even for two consecutive weeks can have lasting positive effects for up to six months. Some people start a gratitude journal or even download an app that helps them record daily the things for which they are thankful.
Developing the habit of gratitude and choosing to daily maintain this positive attitude takes discipline. It can look a bit different for everyone, but the positive results are the same.
You can start today! What three specific things are you thankful for today?