Do you feel like gratitude is a habit? Or does it feel unnatural? I believe you can create momentum through a series of intentional choices.
Here’s a test: when you face anxiety-producing circumstances how do you respond? Does it keep you awake at night? Do your dreams turn negative and reinforce the anxiety? Or do you find ways to be thankful in prayer?
5 ways to create momentum in becoming more thankful
I recently had several anxiety-producing events occur within a short period of time. I’ll confess that it disrupted my sleep and my dreams turned negative and agitated.
So I decided I would put gratitude to the test. Here are some things I learned. Most of them are common sense. They also form a fun acronym of MOPED. Designed to get you moving!
#1: Moment by moment
Most habits form through repetition. It might be daily, hourly, or weekly. In the beginning, you may need reminders, but eventually, it will become natural.
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”Luke 9:23
I recently started taking a fish oil supplement that requires food to get the maximum benefit. Since I normally take my vitamins and medicines when I first awake, hours before I eat, I knew I needed to create a new habit. So I set my alarm to go off daily at 7 pm so I would remember to take it at dinner time. It’s mostly a new habit now, but I still need reminders on some days.
IDEA: What if you set a thankful alarm on your calendar? Maybe start by reminding yourself when you wake up, at noon, and when you go to bed. As a radical experiment, what if you worked up to having a thankful prompt every hour?!
#2: Overcome inertia with momentum
The first step on a journey always seems the hardest. Likewise when rappelling. Earning the first dollar in a business can present the largest challenge as Peter Theil expresses in his book Zero to One. Aerospace engineers put most of their effort into overcoming gravity.
Jesus taught us to go the extra mile, but we have to actually take the first step. When it comes to cultivating a gratitude habit, we also need to take baby steps.
As Proverbs 21:5 teaches, “Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty.” Start expressing thanks every day and you’ll find it becomes increasingly natural.
#3: Pause and listen
When you find yourself wanting to fight, scream, or run, discipline yourself to pause. Take a few deep breaths. Get your blood pressure to drop and then listen to your heart. Why are you feeling stress or anxiety? What’s really going on? What do you have to be thankful for at this moment?
“My child, listen and be wise: Keep your heart on the right course.”Prov. 23:19
TIP: My friend, Mark Oelze, teaches a conflict resolution process called PLEDGE Talk. He finds that pausing before engaging in conflict is the most important step. Likewise, when we feel agitated, irritated, anxious, or envious, take time to stop for a minute and reflect upon what’s happening.
#4: Express it
You can journal and reflect upon how thankful you feel, but if you never tell someone else I’m convinced you won’t truly change. You can write it, say it, or even bring a gift to express your thankfulness. Whether expressing your gratitude to God or another person, say it thoughtfully. If this feels weak or disingenuous, check out some of what we discussed on Day 2.
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”Ephesians 1:16
On day 6 of this challenge, we discussed 7 times to be thankful. All of them require a daily, deliberate decision to be grateful no matter what. It takes a conscious effort to be thankful when you’re facing illness, stress, or temptation. Frankly, it also takes a work of the Holy Spirit, but we pray and work diligently to obey.
TIP: When you arise each day, take a few thankful breaths and determine that you will be thankful in every circumstance. Ask for God’s Spirit to enable you.
I’ve offered a few ideas through this article to get your momentum started or carried forward. Choose one and commit to taking that step each day for the next week. Perhaps schedule it like I did with the fish oil.
Father, I so desire to make thankfulness my natural response in all circumstances, but I confess I become irritable and selfish. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to provoke me. Please change me. Help me to see all of life with a thankful heart. Teach me to receive your daily gifts with a grateful mind and spirit. And show me how to give thanks to others with genuine appreciation. Most of all, keep me grateful for your sacrifice for me every day. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Photo by Toomas Tartes on Unsplash.com