I’ve talked a lot about habits on this blog, because I think they are extremely important. Merriam Webster defines ‘habit’ as “a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior; an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary”. In other words, it’s our behaviors that are on auto-pilot; our default behaviors. We’ve done them so often, we now do them without thinking.
And that could be good or bad, depending on what the habit is, of course.
Today I want to talk about a habit that has the potential to completely transform your life. I am convinced that practicing this good habit will have a positive domino effect in your. Practice the opposite, bad habit however, and the reverse will be true – you’ll see a negative domino effect that will taint everything you do!
So, what is this miraculous habit?
And yet, quite profound.
It’s the habit of practicing gratitude.
Noah Webster defined being ‘grateful’ as “Having a due sense of benefits; kindly disposed towards one from whom a favor has been received; willing to acknowledge and repay benefits; as a grateful heart.” It’s the habit of focusing on our blessings and benefits and all the good God has brought into our life.
Sounds great! So, why is it most of us have the opposite habit of complaining? Why is it easy to have the default behavior of whining, criticizing, and focusing on the deficiencies of life? Because that is what the majority of people do, and it’s very easy to fall into that mindset and just go with the flow. If you’re a complainer, you’ll blend in. If you’re grateful, you’ll stand out!
God calls His children to be different. And as a child of God, we have SO much for which to be grateful!
When we obey God and practice the habit of gratitude, our life can be transformed in 4 major ways:
1) Gratitude Improves Our Health
Numerous studies have been done on the positive effects gratitude can have on our health. It’s been shown to:
- Improve Moods
- Increase Mental Strength
- Improve Sleep quality
- Improve Relationships
Focusing on all the blessings around you each day helps to give you a positive perspective and prevents worry and negative thinking. Chronic worrying, complaining, and negative thinking is a detriment to our health and a contributing factor in many diseases. Gratitude, on the other hand, calms the nervous system, reduces cortisol levels, and helps support healthy blood pressure levels. What we focus on directly impacts our health. Focusing on what is right in your life and all the blessings you have can greatly improve your overall health.
2) Gratitude Improves Our Happiness
It’s hard to be happy if you’re constantly complaining and focusing on what’s wrong in your life – that’s what author, Tommy Newberry, calls the Continuous Deficiency Syndrome – where ingratitude leaves us in a constant state of deprivation.
Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” If your thinking is negative, critical, entitled, pessimistic, bitter, and unhappy, then you will be. If your thinking is positive, compassionate, grateful, forgiving, and happy, then you will be. The habit of gratitude is really just the habit of thinking grateful thoughts. It’s choosing to view your life as the abundant life Jesus talked about in John 10:10.
If you want to improve your happiness, try this simple exercise. Begin writing 3 things for which you are grateful everyday in your journal or prayer notebook. As you begin this exercise, you will likely start with the really big things – salvation, family, friends, etc. As you continue this exercise, however, it forces you to really contemplate and observe even the smallest blessings around you that you likely have taken for granted. Your perspective and what you focus on will begin to change for the better. And I guarantee you that you will begin experiencing greater happiness – all from practicing the habit of gratitude!
3) Gratitude Improves Our Relationship with God
God takes our ingratitude seriously. There are numerous examples from Scripture of God’s displeasure with His people when they complained as well as numerous commands to be grateful (for a list of Scriptures, click here). Gratitude draws us nearer to God by His Holy Spirit. We experience close communion with Him when we are thanking Him daily for who He is and what He has done for us. As we echo the words of David in Psalm 9:1, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds”, we experience an unshakeable happiness and closeness with the Lord that is missing when we live in chronic ingratitude.
Here are just a few more examples from Scripture of how gratitude can improve your relationship with God and transform your life:
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thes. 5:16-18
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Phil. 4:6
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Col. 3:15
“Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Ps. 106:1
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.” Ps. 100:1-5
Practice the powerful habit of gratitude, and watch the Lord transform your relationship with Him in amazing ways!
4) Gratitude Improves Our Relationship with Others
If you’re struggling with discouragement, depression, anxiety, or burnout, I hope I’ve convinced you how the simple habit of gratitude can make a difference and change your life! If you want to dig a little deeper on this subject and learn how to make gratitude a lifelong habit, check out the resources below!
Choosing Gratitude – This book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss is one of my favorites on the topic. This book is full of Scripture as well as poignant illustrations on how choosing to be grateful can impact your life and the lives of those around you. It also has a 30-Day Gratitude Devotional Guide at the back to help you apply what you learn in the book. Such a powerful read!
40 Days to a Joy-Filled Life – Tommy Newberry is one of my favorite authors, and this book is one of my absolute favorites! Tommy leads you on a 40 day journey to greater joy using Scripture, stories, and lots of practical applications. He talks quite a bit about the power of gratitude in this book and how life-changing it can be. He also provides practical ways you can become a more grateful, joyful person. Love it!
The Attitude of Gratitude – This radio series by Nancy Leigh DeMoss is well-worth listening to! Nancy shows how gratitude impacts our physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. I highly recommend!
Gratitude – The Hidden Key to Health & Happiness – This article explores gratitude from a doctor’s perspective and the numerous health benefits it can bring!