In a time of crisis and difficulty, the spiritual practice of gratitude is more important than ever. This article will help you learn how to practice gratitude in everyday life.
The little girl I sponsor has taught me an awful lot about gratitude. Her name is Esmeralda, and she lives in Guatemala. The daughter of a single mother, Esmeralda is not only living in an impoverished community, but now she’s facing all the uncertainties of the coronavirus as well. Yet Esmeralda writes to me, prays for me and thanks God for placing me in her life.
It’s funny … when I sponsored Esmeralda, I thought I would be ministering to her. Yet in every way, her grateful spirit bursts through her letters and ministers to me.
All of this makes me stop and think about the idea of gratitude. We know that gratitude is good. God has told us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Science agrees, showing us that we can reap all kinds of benefits when we nurture a grateful heart. We feel happier, experience stronger relationships, show more compassion to others … we even sleep better!
I don’t know about you, but those benefits sound pretty amazing right about now. We’re living in unusual times, and a lot of us are really struggling. Gratitude is not the first thing that comes to our minds, but it has the power to transform the way we experience this hard situation.
So what does gratitude look like right now, when we’re in quarantine? Here are six ideas to help you practice gratitude … and they don’t require anything you don’t already have with you, even in self-isolation!
1. Go for a gratitude walk.
Getting outside might be the best form of quarantine reprieve there is. Take a 10-minute walk each day and turn it into a special time of gratitude and worship! One way to do this is the 5–4–3–2–1 technique. As you walk, notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel or touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Then turn each observation into a prayer of gratitude.
Here’s an example of what this might look like:
- I see the trees that line my street, and I notice that no trees are the same. God, thank you for making every part of your creation so unique. Thank you for the diversity you have given us to enjoy.
- I hear the sound of my son pedaling his bike. God, thank you for my family. Thank you for putting children in our life to remind us of the childlike faith that you love so much.
- I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. God, thank you that winter is fading and spring is coming! Thank you for seasons and reminders of your faithfulness.
- I smell the steak my neighbor is grilling. God, thank you for putting this neighbor in my life and please show me how I can bless her today.
- I taste the piece of peppermint gum I snagged from my wife just now. God, thank you for my wife and for our marriage. Show me a new way to serve her today.
2. Give your brain a challenge.
Too much isolation can leave you feeling mentally sluggish. So give your brain a jolt by not just practicing gratitude but turning it into a game for yourself!
Challenge yourself to think of one person every day that you’re thankful for. Maybe it’s a mentor, a co-worker, an extended family member, someone in your local church or even the person who lives next door. (Bonus points if it’s someone you haven’t talked to in a while!) Call or video chat with that person to express gratitude for who they are, the role they’ve played in your life or something specific they’ve done that you really appreciate.
Write down the name of the person you’ll connect with each day and keep track as you go. You can even give yourself a reward for doing your daily gratitude call — although you’ll probably find that the connections you make will be reward enough!
3. Get crafty with it.
This is such a perfect time for arts, crafts and activities you’d never have thought of until now (or that you’d have convinced yourself you didn’t have time for ?).
Create a gratitude jar. Find an old mason jar and spend a little time sprucing it up with decorations. Then start a new tradition for yourself, your family or your roommates. Every time you eat a meal, write down one thing you’re thankful for on a slip of paper and place it in the jar. It can be anything — a good night’s sleep, a fresh cup of coffee, physical health or God’s presence with you in this season.
Keep adding to the jar, and periodically — especially if you’re feeling down — read through all the items you’ve written down. You’ll be reminded of the good things in your life that you can celebrate!
Repurpose a rock from your front yard or the street. Feel free to get creative and add a little face, full on Pet Rock-style. This is going to be your new friend that travels around in your pocket as you go through your day. (As you can probably tell, this is also an extra fun activity to do with your kids!)
Every time you feel the rock in your pocket, identify one thing that you’re grateful for right now. This a great way to weave the practice of gratitude into your daily routine — whatever that routine might look like at the moment! You’ll also stay anchored to a positive mindset as you move through your day.
Get your kiddos in on the action and help them make their own gratitude journals!
4. Start a trend.
Social distancing means nothing when you’ve got social media! Each week, post one thing you’re thankful for in the midst of these strange times and invite your friends to do the same. You’ll spark a mindset of gratitude among others in your life — and on top of that, your own heart will be encouraged by the things they share!
5. There’s an app for that.
Actually, there are a lot of great apps that can help you make gratitude a part of your everyday life. Check out the Grateful app, which gives you a daily prompt to journal about. It might ask you, for example, “What made you smile today?” This app makes it easy for you to practice gratitude right on your phone, and it gives you an endless supply of fun ideas if you’re not quite sure where to start!
6. Infuse gratitude into your everyday environment.
Chances are, you’re spending more time in your house than you used to. So why not enhance your living environment with some visual reminders of gratitude?
Write out Bible verses and hang them up in places where you’ll see them every day – in your home office, on the bathroom mirror or on your fridge if it’s not already too cluttered! Every time you see one of these verses, take a few minutes to meditate on it or even practice committing it to memory.
Focus on verses that will help you reflect on gratitude, even in challenging circumstances. Here are a few wonderful Bible verses about gratitude for you to consider:
1 Chronicles 16:34
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16–18
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
We hope these ideas help you learn how to practice gratitude more and more each day! Want to bring even more positivity into your life right now? Join our Share the Good Facebook group to be reminded of all the things we can be grateful for today!
Photos by Ben Adams, Chuck Bigger, Sara Navarro and Galia Oropeza.