How to Have an Attitude of Gratitude All Year Long
Don’t you wish it could be Thanksgiving every day? We’d all have the day off to eat a feast (and Thanksgiving calories don’t count), watch parades and football games, and tell those we love how grateful we are that they are in our lives.
But every day isn’t Thanksgiving.
Jesus told us that in this world we would have trouble (John 16:33). There’s no denying it. We will have hard days – days when it is hard to feel thankful. So how exactly do we follow the Apostle Paul’s instruction to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)?
It’s important to understand that the Apostle Paul tells us to give thanks IN all circumstances – not FOR all circumstances. In other words, while we may not be thankful for something heartbreaking, we can still be thankful throughout the situation.
This is called having an attitude of gratitude, and it is one of the defining characteristics of those who have hope in Jesus Christ. As much as I’d like to tell you that you can just tell yourself to have an attitude of gratitude, it requires more than positive self-talk.
As pastor and evangelist, Billy Graham, says, “Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.”
You must cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Thankfulness is a spiritual discipline, and like other spiritual disciplines, they require practice.
Let’s look at some ways you can practice thankfulness in your daily life to develop an attitude of gratitude.
Make Saying Thank You a Habit
Having an attitude of gratitude means thankfulness is part of your character. This won’t happen without making it common practice to express thankfulness.
Spend time every day in prayer thanking God verbally, out loud. You may try beginning your prayers by expressing thanks to your Heavenly Father. Putting thankfulness first will help turn your thoughts towards God’s goodness and faithfulness.
In addition, make it a habit to thank those people who are around you in your life daily. Look for opportunities to say thank you to those who help you with your day-to-day tasks, such as a waitress, the postal worker, a stranger who opens the door, or your spouse.
Recognize What God Has Done
One of the Old Testament Bible stories that brings me the most conviction is that of the Israelites complaining during their exodus out of slavery. God had brought the Israelites out of slavery and was feeding them with manna from heaven.
But they complained. They didn’t want manna. They wanted the food they had back in Egypt.
“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’” – Numbers 11:4-6
It’s easy for us to shake our heads at their ungratefulness, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t moments in my life when my attitude has been very similar.
Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, take time to remember all God has done. His faithfulness is unending! Even in the hardest trials, we can remember how God brought us through hardships in the past and give thanks.
Consider keeping a gratitude journal where you write down the good things God has done. When you are struggling to have an attitude of gratitude, this will be a great place to turn for a reminder.
Auto Correct Your Words and Thoughts
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. – Philippians 4:8
If you catch yourself complaining, take a pause. Are you focusing on the negative? Are you looking for things to go wrong?
By auto correcting our thoughts and words, we can reconfigure our hearts to be more aligned with things above.
Turn Off Self
It’s hard to have an attitude of gratitude if you aren’t humble. In other words, if you don’t think you “owe” anyone thanks, you won’t have a grateful spirit.
Having an attitude of gratitude requires recognizing you need God and others. Once you realize you need God and others, you are more thankful for them.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:12-13
A big reason many people struggle to have an attitude of gratitude is because they are living in discontentment.
Truthfully, if you are consumed by what you lack, you will have a hard time appreciating what you do have. Instead of focusing on your lack, whenever you are tempted to want “more” or start believing “the grass is greener on the other side,” take time to thank God for what you do have.
If the Apostle Paul can be content while be hungry and in jail, we can find reasons to be content too.
Give and Serve
A quick way to adjust your attitude is to serve others.
When you give up your free time or money to help those in need, you will quickly remember reasons to be thankful. Volunteer with a local homeless shelter or food kitchen. Serve in your church’s children’s ministry. Donate money or needed supplies to women’s shelters.
Expressing thanks to God is an expression of worship. Find ways to incorporate this type of worship into your daily life.
- Listen to worship music that celebrates God’s goodness and faithfulness.
- Memorize Bible verses that express thankfulness.
- Write verses on post-it notes and put them on your mirror or desk.
- Ask a friend to hold you accountable for grumbling and complaining.