5 Practical Ways to Practice Gratitude
by Cheri Strange, PhD
I am super excited because on another screen behind this one I am turning in a new YouVerison reading Plan to release EXACTLY ONE WEEK BEFORE THANKSGIVING, called BOUNDLESS GRATITUDE. The focus is purely spiritual and I cannot wait to get to it with you. So today I wanted to offer something of a practical nature. Weird as the may be this year, the holidays are closing in. I don’t know about your traditions or experiences, your successes, or when you have hardly glossed over the foundational purposes of this time of year, expressing gratitude can get lost in the other seasonal activities. We lose ourselves in family time, shopping, the 24 hour Hallmark channel, and football. I am guilty. There is so much going on. But it’s a new day and you and I are going to have a plan to focus on being thankful in our going. Today we are going to focus on five practical ways to practice gratitude.
5 Practical Ways to Practice Gratitude
Way #1: Practice gratitude in your prayers
With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. Psalm 109:30
Pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Sometimes being thankful is simply a matter of keeping a list and knowing what words to place on it. The Bible is helpful in providing the words I cannot always generate alone. You can practice this independently, but also include others in your family. One simple idea is to take those small paper place holders and have each person write something they are thankful for on the inside every time you sit down for a meal. Leave a stack in the center of the table. Every time you come together, have someone pray over one.
At my house, This might sound like, “Thank you that Tate made a new friend at school. Or Thank you that Zoe has a family.” Or something like that. It doesn’t have to be super scholarly and theological. What are you thankful for? Then let’s tell Him.
Another way we have made this idea fancier is to write these on some sort of cut out, such as a leaf. Punch a hole in it and hang it on an arrangement of branches in a vase with ribbons like an accent piece. It’s a meaningful piece to display that serves as a constant reminder of the reason we celebrate.
Way #2: Recount what He has done for you
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad. Psalm 126:1-3
The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him. Psalm 28:7
You might ask how #1 differs from #2? I think it is more testimonial toward others. Allow me to explain. Absolutely we can throwback at the Lord what He has done for us. Whatever your season has been like and how He has been there for you, you can tell Him about your gratitude and Your God will be delighted. That would be #1.
#2 would be to then tell someone else. I cannot see His Power in your life, necessarily until you tell me what He has done for you. So much of what we do every day happens under the radar. You know it does. We don’t tell anyone. Outside of those few people on your fb feed who tell all, most of us are private, especially about things we need or ways we are struggling or doubting we don’t want anyone to know about. But Then God does something amazing in your life, and we keep it to ourselves.
Let’s not do it this time. Instead, decide what it is you want someone to know you are super thankful for. Think about sharing it in 3 situations:
- Tell a family member
- Talk to a friend
- Tell a coworker – or someone in another environment that you are engaged in, like at church or something.
You can never know how your experience can impact someone else. What if they are secretly struggling and you have the exact encouragement they need? Take the risk. Recount for someone what God has done for you. Who knows the impact your gratitude will have?
Way #3: Plan Gratitude-Inducing Activities
Beyond the risk-taking you and I are going to participate in, there will likely be opportunities to influence others toward practicing gratitude. Here is an idea we use at the Strange house. You can find it pinned on my Pinterest Page under Fall Ideas.
The M&M Thanksgiving Game
This game is for beginners on up and is irresistible because it uses chocolate candy! So easy, one person passes out a handful of M&M’s of different colors. Depending on the color, each person must share something for which they are thankful. For instance, if you pull out a green one, then you are asked to name a food you are thankful for. If it’s blue, you must talk about a person you are thankful for. The game is basic and nonthreatening. If you are surrounded by people who have not even thought about what food that might be thankful for, this is a good place to start, regardless of age.
Way #4: Praise him
Praise offered up to God is all over the Bible. Play music. Sing out loud.
There are so many things we are doing with our mouths that would not be considered praises to God. This would be a great opportunity to stop one thing and begin another. When I find I am listening to my own negativity, not even saying things out loud, I turn on the praise. I drown it out because I cannot be doing damage to myself or any other relationships when I am singing praise and worship songs. I fins my mind shifts and my countenance literally softens. Then I can begin to do Psalm 34:1
I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1
This season, let me challenge you. Turn from yourself to praise your God. It’s a surefire way to express gratitude.
Way #5: Be joyful
And finally – express your gratitude by being joyful. I understand this may not be a natural response to 2020. Regardless of our circumstance, read what the Psalmist says about it:
Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.b
5For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.c
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
8To you, O LORD, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9“What profit is there in my death,d
if I go down to the pit?e
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!”
11You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:4-12
This Psalm bursts with joy, even though the word “joy” is not in it. We feel it. That is what your life is to look and sound like to those around you. Not the sourpuss too overburdened with the responsibility of the season I tend to be. Not to girl done with 2020. Let’s choose to be women adored by God, truly loved, and cherished.
Here is one more idea that I really like because it points to joy over what might be missing in our lives.
The Reverse Bucket List
You know how you can make a mental or actual list of what you want to accomplish in your lifetime? There are some positive aspects about having a bucket list, but it can create a sense of how God is not coming through for you and how everyone else’s life is passing you by–and here you are. Still not doing what you wanted to do or accomplishing what you wanted to accomplish.
This idea is to turn that negativity around. Instead of focusing on what HAS NOT YET BEEN explored and accomplished, center on WHAT HAS BEEN. What has God done that has completely taken you by surprise? How has delighted you in unexpected ways? What have you experienced that was not in the plan, or maybe it was and you are indeed living that part out now?
Think about it
Think about these elements of your life, and write it down. What an unbelievable story that will make.
I would love any highlights you are willing to share.
I believe this history with God takes on very much what this Psalmist articulates that leads him to utter and complete joy.
My prayer for you and for me this season is that we lose our stress find our gratitude. I pray that you and I work through each practical possibility for showing our thankfulness and truly become a more thankful people. Not simply for our own hearts, but so others can see God more clearly. May He looks more reliable, more faithful, more irresistible because of our expressions of who He is and what He has done in our lives.
He is worthy of our gratitude. Many blessings to you as you walk these practical ideas out in your own life.
For His Glory,