Thankfulness is a subject we talk about a lot on the Peaced Together course. That’s because we believe that being thankful whatever the circumstances can transform your life.
There’s now plenty of credible research that shows how beneficial it is to be thankful. Thankfulness improves our mental health, strengthens relationships and can even have an impact on physical health. Basically, it makes us and the people around us happier.
But sometimes being thankful is easier said than done. If we’re honest, there are times when we don’t really want to say thank you as it requires effort, humility and a change of direction. It is also hard to see the benefit of being thankful until you’ve experienced it for yourself. And sometimes, we just get stuck on how to be thankful.
So here’s some practical ideas on how to ‘practise’ being thankful when you don’t feel like it, or just don’t know how.
- Write it down
Sometimes writing things down can help our thoughts flow more easily. When I start scribbling things I am thankful for, the list quickly grows as one thought leads to another. Putting thoughts down on paper (or our smartphone!) helps us value and remember them. Reading old ‘thankful lists’ can help get us in a thankful frame of mind when we’re facing challenges and being thankful is the last thing we want to do!
- Direct it at someone
It’s important to recognise the people behind the things we are thankful for. Expressing gratitude strengthens our relationships and helps us value the people around us. Some things we are grateful for can seem quite abstract. But if we think about it there are often people behind it we don’t usually think about. It might be that you are thankful for your local park. Perhaps you can thank the people that maintain it and be grateful for the people who planned it in the first place, all those years ago? This kind of thankfulness requires us to…
- Take notice
We can take kind acts for granted if they happen often enough. Actively saying “thank you” for the meal your parents have cooked you or to your colleague who brings you a daily cup of tea is really important.
- Pass it on
If you’ve been the beneficiary of a kind act, it’s a lovely thing to do it again for someone else. My friend bought me a bunch of tulips when I was ill a few years ago. It made me feel so loved! I try to remember to deliver tulips to sick friends when I can. I hope it brings them the joy it brought me, but it’s also a way of remembering and being grateful for my friend, the original tulip-deliverer.
- Make it regular
Thankfulness will have a deeper impact if you take the time to practise it regularly. This requires a bit of discipline, but the outcome is worth it. A friend of mine pops a thankfulness note in a jar each day and takes them all out to read them on New Year’s Eve. What a lovely way to end the year, remembering all the year’s blessings and being grateful for them all over again!
Being thankful isn’t always easy, but it is so worthwhile. Hopefully these five steps will help you practice thankfulness when it doesn’t come easily.