“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Practicing daily gratitude has been a conscious effort for my daughters and me over the last couple years. It’s one of the simplest things we do that’s made instant, significant improvements to our lives. (And I think it makes parenting easier, too.) I’d like to share what I’d consider to be the top 5 benefits associated with practicing gratitude, and how we use our gratitude/prayer journals.
5 BENEFITS OF PRACTICING DAILY GRATITUDE
1. BEING GRATEFUL BOOSTS YOUR MOOD.
When you focus on the good, you’re able to notice and appreciate what you have. Gratitude helps stave off a scarcity mindset and its worries. It also keeps you present and allows increased enjoyment in the here and now.
The girls and I started keeping gratitude/prayer journals about two years ago, when our family was in the middle of a major life restructuring. Between May 2021 and July 2021 I had quit a 10+ year career working for a tech start-up, we sold our home in Colorado, and bought our small ranch property out in Texas. On our very first night in our new home, Ray was in the hospital suffering from diverticulitis. He spent the next several months in/out of the hospital and was ultimately unable to work at the job he had lined up. I was considering going back to work. We all got COVID. The girls had just started attending a new school as 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders, but things weren’t working out and we decided to switch to homeschool.
There was a lot going on, but in all that chaos there was a lot of good. With all these big changes and bigger emotions, it felt necessary to slow down and catch our breath. We began to focus on everything God had blessed us with.
2. DAILY GRATITUDE HELPS YOU COPE WITH STRESS BY PUTTING THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE.
The conscious and constant practice of gratitude increases mental strength and resilience. Being grateful helps to put things in perspective so you can catch yourself from allowing minor frustrations to completely derail the day.
Making a habit out of gratitude has shifted our perspective and prevents a lot of out-of-proportion, knee-jerk emotional reactions. One of the most fulfilling things for me has been hearing the girls approach a challenge or disappointment with a positive outlook. Our family is walking through a storm right now with everything going on with baby Ronin, but I’m so thankful that this simple practice has helped build their resilience. When I was in the hospital for 40+ days, they were so strong. All thanks to our faith in God and the ability to count our blessings.
3. GRATITUDE IMPROVES PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH.
Gratitude releases feel-good hormones in the brain (dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin). Studies have shown that grateful people experience fewer aches/pains, tend to exercise more often, and are more likely to take better care of their health. Practicing gratitude helps reduce depression as well as toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, frustration, and anger.
I think a lot of these things are probably interconnected, because physical and psychological health are usually so closely related.
4. BEING GRATEFUL MAKES YOU MORE ENJOYABLE TO BE AROUND.
Someone uplifting & encouraging, or negative & naggy – who would you rather spend time with?? Having a grateful attitude can help improve existing relationships, as well as open opportunities for new relationships.
Being grateful for our own blessings can reduce social comparisons and, let’s be honest, resentment. Grateful people are better able to appreciate others’ accomplishments, talents, and wisdom.
5. GRATITUDE HELPS YOU GROW CLOSER TO GOD.
The Bible is filled with stories of praise and gratitude – even, if not especially, in the middle of storms.
Learning how to have a grateful heart and seeing the best in all situations has helped me stay hopeful in the most difficult situations. God has continued to protect and provide for me and my family.
Although everything about this situation with Ronin has been so painful, there have always been things to be grateful for. The doctors and NICU nurses. All the audiobooks I’ve been able to listen to on the drive into the hospital. My friendship with the lady that works the hospital front desk, my nurse from antepartum, and the elderly man at the parking ticket booth that asks me every day how my son is doing. I’m grateful to be given a new perspective on life and empathy for anyone who’s been through anything similar. I’m grateful for my relationship with Christ, and how this situation has grown me so much closer to Him.
HOW WE USE OUR GRATITUDE/PRAYER JOURNALS
These are some notes on how the girls and I practice gratitude through journaling:
We each have our own gratitude/prayer journal. Although it’s not necessary, I think it’s important to keep your journal entries together in a dedicated notebook. And we each have a unique journal that is special to us. My journal is bright yellow with sunflower engravings that had been a gift from my mom. I let the girls pick out their own journals, and they’re all unique. I always write using the same type of pen, but the girls usually like using a lot more F L A I R!!
Every morning we set aside 5-10 minutes to jot down something we’re thankful for and a prayer that’s on our heart. Having a time of quiet reflection in the morning helps set the tone for the day. Some days I’m able to write longer, more detailed entries like this one from after Ronin’s stent procedure. But If I’m in a hurry on a particular morning, I find it’s better to write down something quick than to skip it altogether.
Write down the date. I think one of the best gifts is the ability to look back over my past entries. Like any journal, it stirs up memories and helps me remember where I’ve been and what I’ve been through. But it’s also amazing to see all the ways that God has provided for me and answered my prayers.
Good grammar/spelling isn’t the focus. But it can be something to strive for. First and foremost with this, practicing gratitude and prayer is what this is all about. But since my gratitude compadres are still school-aged kids, I like to encourage them to practice good grammar and spelling. Sometimes when we’re learning something new (such as what an idiom is, or some new vocabulary word), I challenge them to use it somehow in their writing. I just want to make sure it doesn’t detract from the goal.
After we’ve all had time to reflect, we share what we’ve written. I’m thankful to have a relationship with my daughters where we can share our thoughts and prayers with one another. Hearing what they’re grateful for helps me get in tune with what’s important to them, or what they notice. More often than not, during our sharing time something comes up that’ll spark a conversation. I like taking opportunities to make connections and/or teaching points, but I also like listening to what they have to say.
And there you have it! So what do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on gratitude and if you found anything helpful from our journaling practice.