It is often easier to be thankful at Thanksgiving. We go around the table and say something for which we are thankful, eat turkey until we fall asleep, and then wake up to football or some other family fun. We are off work, with our families, and our tummies are full. Well, of course we are thankful!
But, what about every other day? I don’t know about you, but I struggle to be thankful when I am not 100% comfortable. When it is too hot or too cold, I want to complain. When I am too rushed or too bored, I want to complain. When I am too busy or too lonely, I want to complain. Human nature is rotten at times!
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:12-15, ESV
Preaching to myself, I came up with fifteen simple ways to remain thankful throughout the year. I figured it would not hurt to share my ideas with our readers just in case someone else out there also struggles with a nagging, consistent urge to complain. ~wink~
- Give thanks when you first wake up. “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” (Psalm 9:1, ESV) Thanking God upon waking is a wonderful habit. Before your feet hit the ground, thank God for something! Text someone you are thankful for and tell them why you appreciate him or her. Sometimes I express thankfulness for my bed because it is so comfortable I hate leaving it! Feel free to set up a reminder somewhere – picture in your room or alarm in your phone – to remind you to show gratefulness each morning until you form the habit.
- Choose to find the silver lining in each situation. In the beginning, this is a difficult task; but, with practice, it becomes easier to find the good in bad situations. The car accident was scary but thank goodness no one was hurt. I am disappointed I did not pass the exam on the first try, but now I am more aware of what to expect so I can crush it next time.
- Keep something special with you at all times – a necklace from your first love, a small figurine from childhood, a baseball card from your brother, etc. Have something you can grasp at a moment’s notice to remind you of reasons to be thankful.
- Make it a part of mealtime. At Thanksgiving, it is customary to take turns sharing something for which each person is thankful. But, why save that for only one day a year? During mealtime prayer, thank God for something different. Make giving thanks a part of your daily or weekly table. November is a great time to show gratitude, but so is December, March, July, and every other month. A thankful heart is a happy heart.
- Keep a Thanksgiving jar. Last year, some family members and I started a Thanksgiving jar. When something positive happens, we write it on a small piece of paper, fold it up, and put it in the jar. This year, on Thanksgiving, we will empty the jar and reminisce about all the ways God has blessed us throughout this year!
- Keep a thankfulness journal. Some of you may remember me talking about the thankfulness journal Eric’s Mom gave a young girl with whom she struck up a meaningful friendship before she passed. Years after his mom passed away, this young lady, now grown and married with children, said that journal got her through some rough times in her life. Consider starting a thankfulness journal. Whenever something crosses your mind for which you are grateful, write it down and read your journal when you are feeling down. You can also keep a thankfulness box with keepsakes, happy cards, loving letters, and special mementos.
- Take a social media sabbatical. The more time I spend on social media, the less content I feel. I find myself comparing my life and accomplishments with others, but comparison never leads to happiness. Once a week, even if just for half a day, stay off of all forms of social media and spend that time with friends, reading, spending time with the Lord, resting, or pursuing a hobby. Dwelling on what we do not have is the expressway to depression. Focusing on what we do have lifts our spirits.
- Go outside just for the sake of going outside. We run back and forth to our cars and drive hither and yon to our jobs and commitments, but many of us do not simply appreciate nature. A quiet walk down a path through the woods, lying in a hammock looking up at the moon, or riding a bike through piles of crunchy leaves calms the mind and lightens the heart. Even if you are not naturally an outdoorsy person, a few minutes of fresh air and activity can make your heart glad. Every night I stare up at the sky in awe, wonder, and feel thankful for God’s beautiful creation.
- Visit people who need you. When we stay caught up in our worlds, we quickly begin to feel empty. When we take a step back, survey the land, and proactively help someone else through laughter, a hot meal, or a needed repair, our lives feel fuller and more meaningful. Selfishness is limiting. Whether the single mom across the street needs some adult conversation (and bring coffee!!!), the retired widow from your church needs some companionship, or the lonely faces at the animal shelter need a warm smile and hot meal, we can all find some way to feed others – literally or figuratively.
- Fast a few meals. For several months this year, I did intermittent fasting to help with my health. I generally ate between the hours of 1 pm and 9 pm with a 16-hour fast window. It was not always easy, but it made me appreciate the food I ate so much more than when I ate anytime I pleased. And, it helped me in other ways as well. Going without makes us more grateful for what we have and helps us feel less entitled.
- Get rid of stuff. Be thankful by discarding those items for which I am thankful? Is that not counterproductive? Not at all! We can be thankful for what we give as well as for what we keep. We can be thankful for the ability to give. We can be thankful we find our treasure in something other than belongings. Donating good clothes, toys, and even decorations we no longer want lightens our load and provides a blessing to someone else. And, sometimes we can even reach into our closets, pull out items we still value, and offer them to someone else. Less is truly more.
- Send cards. Lately, my desire to send snail mail has increased five-fold! I am not sure when or where the yearning arose, but I find myself walking up and down the card aisles at Walmart, grocery stores, and anywhere else I see rows of cheery stationary. The positivity involved in sending someone else a happy note gets inside of us as well. If you want an emotional lift, bring a bright spot to someone else’s day. It is a sure-fire happiness booster!
- Plan ahead for comfort. I am more likely to remember to give thanks when I feel good. When I snuggle in bed at night, I feel so grateful. When I wear a soft shirt or drink a warm drink, I feel more compelled to think of the good in my life. Take a few minutes each evening and plan comfort into your next day. Maybe you can keep warm slippers at work for when you are at your desk? You can put a few hot chocolate packets into your lunch bag. You can keep plushy blankets in your car, at work, and on the back of your couch. For me, placing lip balm in all areas of my life – car, desk, nightstand, kitchen, purse – makes me feel calm and comfortable. And, when that balm glides across my dry lips, I feel quite thankful indeed. ~smile~
- Place Scripture around your living space. Whether you stash note cards or hang elegant Scripture art, keep reminders of the truth on hand at all times. God’s word is powerful (cf. Hebrews 4:12) and does not return void (cf. Isaiah 55:11). We cannot read it, speak it, dwell on it, and memorize it without it changing us.
- Give thanks when you put your head on your pillow at night. Let thankfulness be your first expression in the morning and your last expression at night. Instead of drifting off to sleep dwelling on the failures or disappointments of the day, let your last words be, “Thank you, Lord, for…” It will sweeten your sleep, and eventually, your entire life.
Happy Thanksgiving to you, your special someone, and your family. We hope your celebration is sweet and lasts all year. May God richly bless your fellowship!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! – I Chronicles 16:34, ESV
How do you remember to stay thankful?