A regular gratitude practice can kick a serious case of grumpiness to the curb.
Posted in , Nov 19, 2019
Ever get so grumpy you don’t know what to do? Or anxious? Or sad? Or stuck in a rut? Times like that I tell myself, “Just cheer up, Rick.” But it often doesn’t seem to work. It doesn’t change how I feel.
Here’s something that does work though. Thankfulness. Not wandering thoughts but a concentrated effort of gratitude—and prayer. Looking for things to be grateful for and writing them down. Actually making a list.
One day I got so irritated and fed up with myself that I got out a piece of paper and starting writing things down. Little things, ordinary things, “the oatmeal I had for breakfast, the funny story in today’s paper, the friend who sent me that email, the shoes on my feet, my favorite sweater…”
I kept writing and writing. I must have come up with 30 things to be grateful for. When I finally looked up from the page, well, I felt different. Better. Happier. Relieved. Thankful.
I was once interviewing the newscaster Deborah Norville, and she told me how important this regular practice of gratitude was for her. She had suffered for years from migraine headaches. No doctor could help her. But the daily habit of writing down what she was grateful for—just five things a day, say—had a healing effect. Her migraines all but disappeared.
It’s no surprise that Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
In all circumstances? Well, yes. Turns out it is very practical advice. I have friends who keep gratitude journals that they use in their prayer practice. I’m not as disciplined as they are. But I’ve learned from them.
When I think I’m at a dead end, when I need to reconnect with God, when I don’t particularly like myself and God’s love feels far away, I do what Paul says. I write down the things I’m grateful for. There’s always more than I ever expect.
Try it. It’s a prayer and an answer to prayer all at once.