Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
“A General Thanksgiving,” in The Book of Common Prayer
Will you join me?
For the next 30 days, I invite you to write each day in a notebook or journal or in a document on your computer at least 3 things for which you are grateful. Try not to miss even one day, but if you do, simply start again. Some of you may already do this, or have some other daily practice of gratitude. If so, simply continue! But some of you may be like me and practice gratitude more sporadically. Now can be our time to set a new intention.
What’s the point of this, besides the fact that Thanksgiving is next week?
There are all kinds of studies being done on the power of the practice of gratitude. The positive benefits described in these studies are nothing short of amazing: better health, lower stress, better sleep, and greater capacity to deal with the very real challenges of life.
Over the past decade, science has shown that gratitude is one of the most valuable and important emotions we possess, and it is a virtue that anyone can cultivate. There are many ways to foster an attitude of gratitude, and research indicates that many of them really work to make life better for people, including the one I suggest we take on–the daily gratitude journal.
A few things to consider as we begin:
First, the important thing is the daily practice of expressing gratitude. Holidays like Thanksgiving are wonderful extravaganzas of gratitude, but according to the studies, it’s the small, daily practice that has the most positive, lasting effect.
Second, in the course of a month, as in the course of our lives, hard things will happen we don’t need to pretend we’re grateful for. When things are hard, it’s important to acknowledge that, to yourself, other people, and to God. But then, in the midst of the hardship, identify three things for which you are grateful–a supportive friend; good food; a hot shower in the morning.
Third, a side benefit of our gratitude practice, according to all the studies, is that we will become more generous and kind. Out of a growing sense of blessing, we naturally want to be a blessing to others. That is a very good thing. But for now, what I encourage you to focus on is what the practice of gratitude does for you. I pray that this 30-day experiment will bring you joy.
For gratitude is one of the best antidotes for two of the most joy sapping conditions of our time: envy and anxiety. We’d be made of stone not to feel envious and anxious in this high achieving, high consumer driven culture. As a result we can lose sight of how much we have to be grateful for and–most important of all–what a gift it is to be alive, what a gift it is to be who we are.
In a month, I’ll reflect on the results of my experiment and ask you to do the same.