Gratitude is a lifestyle choice

By  Lisa Petsche
  • October 23, 2008
{mosimage}“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18

Thanksgiving has come and gone once again, but I’m still in a thankful frame of mind, for a couple of reasons. First, my American friends and relatives are gearing up for their Thanksgiving celebration this month. Second, I like the warm, fuzzy feelings of gratitude and its by-product, generosity, that Thanksgiving inspires, and I’ve been contemplating how to perpetuate them.
Here are some ideas I’ve come up with for incorporating them into everyday life:

Keep a journal that chronicles the goodness in your life. When you’ve had a bad day and it’s hard to come up with anything to be grateful for, list the components of your life you can’t imagine being without, such as your faith, family, friends, pet, health, home and car or the pleasures you never tire of, such as watching the sun set or wandering through a bookstore. You’ll quickly be reminded of the many blessings you take for granted.

Say “Thank you” and give compliments more often. For example, send a letter to the editor praising a newspaper article you enjoyed (rather than wait for a piece you find fault with and dashing off a scathing missive), or thank the co-ordinator of a workshop you found valuable (you can be sure he or she put a lot of time and effort into preparing and executing it).

When payday comes around, rather than complain about your wages or the deductions on your pay stub, think how fortunate you are to have a steady income and perhaps also health and other benefits.

Whenever you or a family member visits a doctor or an emergency room or is admitted into hospital, be thankful you don’t have to worry about how you’ll pay for medical care.

Help someone who is going through a difficult time, offering emotional and practical support. It will take your mind off your own concerns and help you gain perspective. I work with people who are terminally ill, and one of the benefits is being reminded on a daily basis that today is all we have and that what matters during our time on Earth is the love we share.

Get into the habit of picking up one or two extra items when you shop for groceries each week, and, once a month or so, drop them off at a food bank.

Become a regular blood donor if your health permits. (Each donation can save up to three lives.) Be thankful that you’re in good enough condition to do this. If, on the other hand, you’re a blood recipient, be grateful for the generosity of donors who literally give of themselves.

Sponsor a child in a developing country. Our family supports a girl in Haiti through Chalice (formerly Christian Child Care International), a Canadian Catholic sponsorship organization (see www.chalice.ca or call 1-800-776-6855). In addition to providing an underprivileged child with “nourishing food, medical and dental care, basic clothing, the chance to go to school and the knowledge that someone cares,” sponsorship reminds our family not to take for granted amenities of North American life such as socialized health care, public education, sanitation services, electricity and weather-proof, multi-room homes. To give an example, our living room windows stick and I’d love to replace them. When opening or closing them irritates me, I remind myself that our sponsored child’s home doesn’t have any windows and my frustration fades.

Everything I’ve read about the subject portrays gratitude as an attitude, freely chosen: a perception of our life as abundant rather than lacking and the world around us as friendly rather than hostile.

There’s no denying we may not always get a fair shake in life, because the world is imperfect. But as gratitude guru and best-selling author Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude, when we are grateful for the blessings that are present in our lives, “we experience Heaven on Earth,” discovering “the sacred in the ordinary” and realizing that “every day is literally a gift.”

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