God commands us to come with Him with thanksgiving in every situation we find ourselves in, and if there is one thing I’ve learned about God, it’s that He doesn’t command us to do anything that isn’t His best for us. And if cultivating a grateful lifestyle is for our good, just perhaps this will foster our ability to perceive each day as good, even when there are bad moments within each day.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
What is the difference between gratitude and thankfulness?
There is somewhat of a fine line between gratitude and thankfulness, yet there is a distinction. Gratitude is really an emotion expressing an appreciation for something someone has as opposed to what someone wants. Put another way, gratitude is a thankful appreciation for something tangible or intangible we’ve received. Gratitude is acknowledging the good things in our lives.
In simple language, gratitude is an emotion or feeling of being thankful for every good thing in our lives. By having a grateful lifestyle, you develop a more positive attitude or perspective even toward the trials and difficulties in life and feel thankful for all God has blessed you with.
Remember, in essence, being grateful is about appreciating what you have, as opposed to what you want. Being thankful or thanking someone often implies you are acknowledging your thanks for something that someone has done for you or given you.
Why are gratitude and thankfulness important?
1. Gratitude fosters a happy outlook.
By intentionally practicing gratitude in life, we recognize our blessings every day and that helps us to appreciate all that we already have. This habit promotes a more positive, happier outlook even when things are difficult.
2. Gratitude promotes a positive personality.
When we accept life with all its trials, hardships, and difficulties, we appreciate the blessings more and generally become more mature and positive in our overall personality. When we focus on the negative experiences, we can tend to fall into despair and want to give up, whereas practicing gratitude for the positive in the face of difficult trials leads to resiliency.
One of the greatest benefits I have experienced when I have intentionally focused on living a lifestyle of gratitude is that your overall outlook on life improves because you become more grateful for what you have in your life instead of focusing on what you don’t have.
3. Gratitude and thankfulness promote improved sleep and increased relaxation.
A simple nightly ritual of spending five minutes prior to turning off the light at night thinking and perhaps even journaling about the good things that happened during the day for which you can be grateful has been shown to dramatically improve mental health, promote improved sleep with quicker sleep onset, and increased relaxation rather than letting your mind spin out of control with worries and concerns over things that haven’t happened yet.
4. Gratitude and thankfulness may increase productivity.
When we practice having an attitude of gratitude, increased optimism, self-esteem, and belief in our capabilities often occurs, which then results in an increased focus on better things, increased productivity, and often, better decision-making capabilities.
5. Gratitude may improve your health and longevity.
Some studies have indicated that individuals for whom gratitude comes most easily also tend to have healthier immune systems, be less prone to illnesses and injury, and live longer than those who are less focused on the positive in their lives and more focused on the negative.
6. Gratitude and thankfulness improve your mental health.
In the practice of gratitude, our brain produces neurotransmitters (naturally occurring brain chemicals) that make us feel good and the increased subjective report of happiness.
7. Gratitude increases bonding in a relationship.
Gratitude and thankfulness often contribute to a positive interaction and connection with others. One of our greatest needs is to feel accepted and appreciated, and gratitude goes a long way toward that. You don’t have to say thank you every time but sometimes a simple note or few admiring words go a long way in a relationship.
Why is it good to practice gratitude?
Scripture tells us, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12 NLT).
As a parent, I’ve drilled into my children that when someone does something nice for them, or takes the time, energy, and money to get them something, they need to take the time to express gratitude and thanks. Research suggests that the more grateful an individual is, the more they experience positive emotions like love, contentment, happiness, and for some, a decreased level of stress.
Scripture also tells us that “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45 NLT).
The more we practice gratitude, the better we will handle less positive situations, and be less likely to take our negative emotions out on someone who didn’t deserve our wrath.
Gratitude is a choice:
Gratitude doesn’t always come easy for us. But I was especially challenged to put gratitude at the forefront of my mind when my husband was going through medical treatment for life-threatening cancer. When I was posed with the possibility of no longer having him in my life, suddenly the little things that previously got under my skin or caused me to take up an offense no longer seemed important.
During that season I was especially challenged to choose to be thankful for some things that I previously might have overlooked:
• The nausea, vomiting, and fatigue? Meant I could choose to be grateful that the chemotherapy was killing the cancer.
• My husband’s snoring? Meant I could be grateful he was alive and breathing.
• The socks on the floor? Meant I could be grateful we had clothes to wear.
• The dishes in the sink? Meant I could be grateful we had food to eat.
• The children making loud noise? Meant I could be grateful my children were home with me.
I learned then that gratitude and thankfulness are a choice. We choose whether to be grateful or sulky, positive or negative, optimistic or pessimistic. No one makes that choice for us.
These are the important things that matter.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).
How do we express gratitude?
There are many ways to express gratitude, and in general, I would suggest doing what feels most comfortable to you. That being said, if you really want to make someone feel special, think about what kind of expression of gratitude would mean the most to them. Here are a few ideas:
Perhaps the quickest, simplest, and most direct way of expressing gratitude is verbal.
“Thank you for the…that was so thoughtful of you.”
“I appreciate you because…” (I’m particularly fond of this one because we all feel just a bit lighter in our spirit when someone takes the time to acknowledge and appreciate us.)
“It meant a lot to me when you…”—such a simple statement is likely to be followed by an increased willingness on the other’s part to do what you appreciated again in the future.
A fun and memorable way to express gratitude is to take the letters that spell out the individual’s name, and for each letter in their name, comment on a word starting with the same letter that you are grateful for in that individual. For example:
“Mary, I’m grateful that you are:
Y-young at heart
God puts simple things along our path every day to provide simple joys to thrill our hearts. When I go for my daily walk, I’m forever stopping along the way to either take photos or collect small things of nature that I’m grateful for, such as flowers, pine cones, interesting shaped stones, pretty fall leaves, etc. Use those photos to create a collage, or the items to make a display to help you remember those things you are grateful for on another day when you might be struggling to remain grateful.
Writing Thank-You Cards:
In this fast-paced, digital society, handwritten notes, including written thank you cards, are almost a thing of the past. Yet, there is something special about receiving a hand-written note in the mail, knowing that someone thought enough about you to take the time to write a note, address and stamp an envelope, and take it to the mailbox. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t take that long, but the impact on the recipient may last forever.
Gratitude Prayer or Journal:
I have found a significant shift in my attitude, as well as my outlook on the day when I take the time to write out my prayers of gratitude and thankfulness to God. But during a time when I was really struggling to stay positive, optimistic, and forward-moving, I challenged myself to write down 5 new things each day that I was grateful for in a journal. Some days were more of the obvious things that readily come to mind like a car for transportation, or food on the table at dinner time. Other times I found myself grateful for the less obvious like forgetting something in the house that caused me to get in my car a few minutes later than I would normally drive to work which meant I wasn’t involved in the accident that occurred just moments earlier. I have a friend who began such a gratitude practice and has listed well over 10,000 different things she has found to be grateful for.
I’d love to hear what you do to cultivate a grateful and thankful spirit, in the comments below.
Every day can be a good day when you trust the promises of God.
Today is Going to be a Good Day
My newest book, Today is Going to be a Good Day: 90 Promises from God to Start Your Day Off Right is now available!
This uplifting devotional helps you make each day a good day no matter what is going on in your life.
When life conspires to drag us down with all of its troubles, it can be hard to keep our spirits up. In times of severe illness and depression, I learned that when I stand on God’s promises, despite my circumstances, every day can be a good day.
Each reading includes Scripture, reflection, prayer, and a recommended playlist song designed to help you live out Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”
For more information on the book visit: Today is Going to be a Good Day Book