Monday, November 21, 2011

How-To ideas for increasing gratitude!

I spoke in church yesterday about gratitude, specifically how to have a grateful heart. I wanted to share with all of you a list I compiled from LDS talks and devotionals of "how-to" ideas for cultivating a grateful heart. Since it is Monday of Thanksgiving week, today would be a perfect time to pick ONE THING (Don't overwhelm yourself!!!) and work on it for the week. See how it will make your week better and make you so much happier! And it doesn't require any crafting or preparation! Just pick something and start doing it. One last note - Make sure it is something you feel you can do. A couple weeks ago, I started out by trying to keep a journal and that lasted for one day. I’ve never been a good journal keeper so I chose something else to try that worked better for me.

1 Keep a gratitude journal. Record daily or several times a week 3-5 blessings or “tender mercies” you have felt or experienced, such as good health, a positive relationship with someone, improvements, or lessons learned. Include your thoughts and emotions about them rather than just cataloguing them. This will help you relive and savor the experiences and will help you notice blessings in your life on a daily basis.

2 Write thank you notes. Buy or create thank you cards to keep on hand. When someone does something nice for you, write a note of thanks as soon as possible. Even an email will do! The point is to acknowledge quickly and kindly the act of kindness. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like receiving a thank you note!

3 Express gratitude to those who you have never properly thanked. For example, parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, teachers, coachers, employers. You can call them on the phone or write a letter or email. Be specific about the details of kindness toward you and how it affected you. This will lift both you and the person receiving the gratitude.

4 Create a gratitude catalog. Make a comprehensive list of all your blessings. After listing obvious blessings, shift to “smaller” blessings such as running water, a phone call from a friend, and so forth. You do do this on a regular basis - daily, a few times a week, once a week. You could make your list on a google document if you use a computer for a lot of the day, on a piece of paper posted on the fridge, in a little notepad carried in your purse, or on your handy dandy smartphone.

5 Express prayers of gratitude. This has two parts. The first is to remember to start your prayers by expressing gratitude. This is my favorite part of praying because it helps me realize every single day that I truly am richly blessed and that all my blessings come from Heavenly Father. A song that I have been listening to constantly, as it is on my Thanksgiving playlist, is “A Thankful Heart” from the Muppets Christmas Carol. I love the line that says “And every night will end, and every day will start, with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart.” The second part is to regularly dedicate an entire prayer to your expressions of gratitude. Don’t ask for anything. Be specific; go beyond the obvious. See how exhaustive you can be. Discover the truth in the lines “And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

6 Repent and open your heart. Let go of negative emotions that bind your heart. Anger, resentment, and bitterness stunt our spiritual growth. Elder Wirthlin said, “You can repent of uncleanliness. That is the miracle of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Begin the process today.”

7 Verbally express gratitude for your blessings throughout the day. Verbalizing really does make a difference than just thinking about it. There are so many little things every day to be grateful for. When you first become aware of a blessing, your feeling of gratitude can be strengthened by immediately expressing thanks out loud. You could even keep a list of these things on a google document if you use a computer for a lot of the day, on a piece of paper posted on the fridge, in a little notepad carried in your purse, or on your handy dandy smartphone.

Lots of people complain. Most people complain about their problems, but miserable people are different-they complain about their blessings. If their car breaks down, they complain that it isn't new. If their waitress is slow, they complain and withhold a tip. If their cell phone drops a call, they complain about their service. That’s like complaining that you missed a call on your miniature computer attached to your ear, which is connected to a multimillion-dollar satellite circling the earth hundreds of miles away, thanks to the work of many talented scientists.They're like the people in the Old Testament who got free food from heaven and said, "What? Manna again?" By contrast, happy people are grateful to have a car, thankful they can afford to eat at a restaurant, and stoked that they have a cell phone. Most people in the world don't have cars, can't afford restaurants, and have never sent a text message. Happy people count their blessings, while the miserable complain about theirs." John Bytheway and Jeffry Larsen

8 Make expressing gratitude a family tradition. Before family prayer each night, or at dinnertime, share with each other blessings you noticed throughout the day. You can just take turns verbalizing them, or you could have each person write them down on a piece of paper and put them in a "blessing" basket. A fun idea might be to read them aloud once a week, possibly as a Sabbath-day activity.

9 Eliminate ungrateful thoughts and complaining. When something happens and you want to complain, immediately find something to be grateful for. I worked on this for the past couple weeks. Here’s one experience I had: Our son, Tanner, is a horrible meal eater outside of our house. We were at a community event and he wouldn’t eat. I was getting frustrated with him. Instead of expressing that frustration and making him and myself unhappy, I caught myself. Instead, I said to Makenzie, “I’m so grateful that he will eat meals at home.” It was a simple statement but it changed by whole outlook on the situation and released my frustration. I have been noticeably happier by recognizing my blessings instead of complaining when something goes wrong.

10 Think of your talents and spiritual gifts. Pray with gratitude for these gifts and ask for ways that you can use one or more of them to bless the lives of others. He has given you these gifts for a reason and will use you to bless lives. Also, choose one of your talents that you would like to cultivate and come up with an action plan to increase your skill in that talent.

11 Endure trials well. It’s easy to recognize our blessings when things in life are going well. But having gratitude through trials will have a greater positive affect on you during times of hardship and help you gain greater perspective. President David O. McKay observed, “We find in the bitter chill of adversity the real test of our gratitude.” We learn from Nephi in his great afflictions during his journey through the wilderness. He said, “I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.” Make a conscious effort to thank and praise God during hard times. There are definite blessings to be found during these times. This past May, Tanner was hospitalized because of his asthma. As I was following the ambulance that was taking him and Eli to the hospital, I said a desperate prayer to Heavenly Father. As part of that prayer, I asked that I would focus on my blessings throughout this experience. Eli and I did just that and it made a world of difference in the way we felt throughout the whole ordeal. There were many blessings and tender mercies that happened that helped me know Heavenly Father was aware of us. Elder Robert D. Hales expressed that, “Gratitude brings a peace that helps us overcome the pain of adversity and failure.”

12 Open your arms in service to others. We render thanks to God by loving and serving those around us. The blessings that come from opening our arms to others are among the choicest this earth has to offer.


I'm grateful for my two little happy darlings and wonderfully amazing hubbaloo!


Kristie said...

That's a good list. I will have to try a couple.

Jessica said...

Thanks for the reminder and all the tips. I know having a grateful and positive attitude makes a huge difference in our lives. We've been working with Timothy a lot on having him tell us things he's grateful for lately. It's really cute. BTW, your hair looks so pretty in that pic!