Gratitude… something that we have been told about since we were barely old enough to understand. Being thankful, being grateful, being content. This last week I found myself being very discontent with my life: I wasn’t happy with the things I had, the places I went and the people I knew. So here I was, experiencing great things and yet I couldn’t enjoy them. Suddenly I wanted a body like hers, a career like his, a face like theirs, a house in this place and yet I was perfectly healthy, God was opening doors that seemed to be stuck shut before, I was making great friends but I couldn’t seem to like it. And this time it was even not that bad. You know those times when nothing in your life is working out? You are not progressing, nothing is changing, you are stuck, you are losing your mind, you are so low that you can’t even enjoy a comedy show? Those times when it seems like it’s ok to be discontent because it will push you to be greater, it will heal you and you will feel better? How do we cultivate gratitude? Is it possible to be content when your world is stagnated or on fire? Is it right to complain when you have every right to?
Paul wrote that Godliness with contentment is great gain and David wrote to give thanks to the Lord for he is good. In fact Paul said that he had learned the secret to being content in any situation. Now I used to take this verse lightly until I actually sat down and thought about what it means to be content in any situation. I imagined the absolute worst-case scenario and tried to picture my reaction to it and trust me, even my reaction to the imaginary one was enough to let me know that it would not be a walk in the park. Now I believe that Paul’s secret, or at least one of them was gratitude. That one thing we can easily muster when things go well but cannot even fathom when things are rough. The thing that shows humility, hope and faith. The decision to be joyful for what you have. So today I’m sharing my best tips on practicing gratitude and getting content.
Say ‘thank you’ first thing in the morning:
Let your first word be thank you. Your morning prayer should begin with you expressing gratitude over having slept, woken up, for your country, leaders, school/job, friends, pastors, family, a roof over your head etc before you go into your daily prayer requests. This helps you start the day with an attitude of gratefulness.
Be grateful for you:
So I normally stand in front of the mirror just to say thank you for the things I love about myself and especially the ones I hate. Sometimes I focus on physical things, other times on emotional or intellectual ones but I always try to be grateful for exactly how God made me and how I am now before I start working on being better. When you recognize that you are great now, then your motivation for working out or studying or getting a new job isn’t to validate yourself or increase your self-esteem, but it is to genuinely grow yourself and thus you begin to be content with who you are.
I try to compliment at least 5 people a day. Genuine compliments; from ‘I love your shoes’ to ‘That was an excellent idea, I can’t wait to try it.’ Complimenting others is one of the ways to stop focusing on self and thus makes you look outward and not become so depressed about what you seem to be lacking. Find something beautiful in everyone around you and not just think it, but say it to them.
Try to give something at least once every week. Don’t make it a religious practice but a conscious decision to identify a need and give specifically to it. Like giving the disabled child begging on the street corner some food,water ,money or if you’re well-off even schooling. Giving offering to a specific cause in church. Giving your time to enrich the lives of others. Giving your talents to make an organisation better without getting paid. Just identify one thing that would change the life of others and give if you have something, even if it’s fasting for one day for that family you see struggling to make ends meet.
Meditate on God’s word:
Now I would have said pray but prayer is more you telling God stuff but that usually doesn’t help you be content if you aren’t listening to him in return so my point is listen. Open your heart, meditate on God’s word, have a calm moment and just listen. Hear him speak to you and feel him move through you. It is an exhilarating experience that really makes you grounded and reminds you what is important.
It is so easy to get used to the sky, the sun, the stars, the leaves, the grass, the rain, the snow or even sand. You wake up on any given day and you know they’ll be there and so it never occurs to you that these are wondrous, words of God. No, really… he spoke them into being. So everyday, stop and smell the roses, run through a field of grass, lie beside a stream, warm your hands beneath the sun. Enjoy the nature around you as it is a clear sign of miracles and God’s wonder. And it has a funny way of reminding you that you are not in control so why fret? Just be content in the moment.
Write down a list of things you are grateful for:
Put it in a book that you can read anytime you feel low, discontent or have had a day full of complaining. This list will remind you of all the things going right even though your world seems to be going wrong.
Instead of complaining, be grateful:
So anytime you want to complain about someone or something, find something about that situation to be grateful for. And not in that sarcastic way but really genuine. Instead of complaining about your sister always taking your things, find something about her you admire, instead of complaining about your government, find something that works and than God for it or for the one politician who is doing well.
Surround yourself with positive people:
Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals so all this points are null and void if the people you surround yourself with spend time complaining, condemning, gossiping and hating. Have people who are trying to be better or are already the epitome of positivity,people who can help you on the days you cannot seem to be grateful about anything. Always be with people who inspire you so in this case, people who are already on their journey of contentment.
Always leave a place better than you found it:
Whether it’s your room, a public toilet, someone else’s house or the office. Spend time making it better without pointing out the ‘flaws’ or alerting people to what you are doing. Leaving a place better than you found it makes the next person feel better, reminds you that you ca be part of change and most importantly shows you that yes things are bad, but God is working behind the scenes and they will get better.
I’ll be sharing more lists on being content in later blog posts. Is there anything you do to stay grateful and cultivate gratitude that aren’t mentioned on the list? Comment below. Like, share and subscribe. Have a glorious week.