If you read this blog often, you know that gratitude has become a regular sub-theme of sorts here for me. So when I saw a friend ask the other day for strategies for promoting gratitude in daily life, I decided to think about what my daily gratitude practices look like. I’ll admit, I am human. Some days I lose sight of, or at least take for granted, all that I am grateful for. But on my better days, I remember gratitude through at least the seven following ways which I have learned work for me:
1. Practicing What you Preach- Giving Regularly
Believing that God entrusts us with all that we have, and all that we are, it matters that we use that which God has entrusted to us to do God’s work. For my family, that starts with returning a portion of which God has entrusted to us, to God. Some might call this tithing. We do this regularly in worship at our church, once a month. At the very least we give about 10% of our total income in this way. Many months we try to give more. In addition to these offerings, we may give to other favorite social ministries, charities, or places of learning who have been (or are) a part of our story, or whose story and mission resonate with our passions.
2. Writing Thank You Notes
Years ago a pastor friend of mine told me that they write a minimum of 5 thank you notes per week. I have found that this rule makes a huge difference in my own life, and therefore I always try to start off the work week by writing a minimum of five hand written thank you notes. Writing out these words of gratitude reminds myself of some of the stories that I have seen or experienced, but they also help reinforce a personal sense of gratitude which then grounds the rest of my day, and also orients or reorients me in a deep sense of gratitude for my experiences and awareness as I go about my work and vocations. (Admittedly, since Caroline has arrived in the world, we’re running pretty far behind on baby gift thank you notes. Please don’t think we are forgetting you if you haven’t received one. It’s just a long list which we are grateful for.)
3. Writing Special Cards
Allison and I try to stay on top of family birthdays and anniversaries, by sending greeting cards to commemorate those days. Almost always in these cards we try to offer a word of gratitude for the person who we are celebrating or remembering. By doing this, not only do we remind ourselves of some of the stories of things we are thankful for, perhaps we might share something that the recipient might have forgotten that they did that we appreciated.
4. Always tipping well
I read an article recently that said “Millennials are America’s Worst Tippers.” Now, this could have to do with the fact that many Millennials have less disposable income than older generations, and/or the fact that many Millennials are carrying inordinate amounts of student debt. Though all of this may be true, I personally don’t find it to be a good excuse not to tip. Tipping well is a way of showing and sharing gratitude with those who helped make your day or experience special. It might also be a way to help another person who is working hard to make ends meet in their own daily life and for their own family. Therefore, unless I have a horrible experience (which almost never happens) or I am someplace where tipping would be culturally inappropriate or offensive, I try to always tip well (around 20%). Plus, now that we have a baby, I am extra appreciative of caring staff, attendants, servers, etc., who do not judge but welcome us well.
5. Personally and Fully Saying Thank You
This may not matter to you, but I think it makes a difference. Whenever I say thank you, I try and say a full “thank you,” and not just a passing “thanks.” Adding the full two words might seem like a small thing, but it personalizes it. Better yet, whenever possible, I try hard to say “thank you ____________, ” with the person’s name of whom I am thanking in person (with the name they prefer to be called). By acknowledging the person, whether they are someone I have just met for the first time, or someone I know very well, there is a chance to build a relationship through gratitude. By naming the person, you are also helping yourself be more present in the moment with the other person, and that grounding can go a long way in being more fully aware of your day and how you are living and going about it.
6. Saying Thank You to Your Partner
I think I learned this from my parents’ example, but also probably through life experience. It’s important and only right that you say thank you to your spouse all the time. I have found that it’s especially important to say thank you for the day and all of your spouse’s love and support, and help in it, before bed at night. This goes triple, if you feel you might have been a bit grumpy during the day (like I do sometimes). And it’s also great in the morning to start the new day off in gratitude and joy by saying thank you to the one you love.
7. Saying Thank You to God
When I pray, I always try to offer petitions of thanks. After all, God has given me all that I have, and has called me into who I am. I am grateful for that. I am grateful for all that God has done, continues to do, and promises to do. Whether the day has been good or bad, I am thankful to God for the day itself and for the opportunity to in some way, do Gods work, but also live abundantly and in the hope and promise of the resurrection.
Those are some of the ways that I have found help me live gratefully each day. What are some ways that help you live in gratitude?