Reframing Life with Gratitude

6/2/2015

Now that we have gotten through Easter we prepare for Annual Conference and hopefully squeeze in some time rejuvenating yourself; no matter what that is for you. On the IGRC: Pastoral Care and Counseling closed Facebook page, some pastors and family members posted a few things they enjoy: picnics, bike rides, local parks and zoos, the St Louis Zoo (free) and other St Louis attractions, and state parks for day outings. Summer is often a time where we would like a little more than a day and these longer outings can include visiting family, a camping trip, an amusement park and more. These are all wonderful ways to rejuvenate ourselves; if we can really relax and be present in the moment without thinking or worrying about something else. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a way to reframe our outlook on life on a daily basis that we could fit into our busy schedules?
 
Thankfully a daily gratitude practice has been found in multiple studies to benefit our psychological (alert, energetic, attentive) and physical (better sleep and increased likelihood of exercise) health as well as healthier interpersonal relationships (less lonely/isolated, feeling more connected, being more helpful). Studies have also found that depression and anxiety decrease while reports of life satisfaction increase as daily gratitude practice becomes more consistent.
 
There are several ways to incorporate a daily gratitude practice into your day-to-day life, it is important to find what works for you. Gratitude journaling is a common daily way to practice. I like to sit in bed with my gratitude journal and reflect back over my day, identifying 3 things I am grateful for that day. Somedays are easier than others. On my challenging days I can always be thankful for waking up one more day, my wonderful family, and that God loves me. Another approach to Gratitude Journaling is the George Bailey effect. Occasionally journaling about how one’s life would be different without a special event/person/gift. Including the It’s A Wonderful Life (George Bailey) effect in your journaling practice encourages us to more fully appreciate what we already have.
 
If you are going through a rough patch in your life, writing a Life Summary or a Gratitude Visit can be helpful to reframe your perspective on life. A Life Summary is a one page summary of your life as you would like it to be remembered. A Gratitude Visit is a letter you handwrite (if possible) to someone who has supported, sustained, encouraged or more and that you are grateful to. If possible, deliver this letter in person and follow it with a discussion.
 
There is a difference between feeling grateful and being a more grateful person. Thinking outside the box and expressing gratitude for (or to) those who harm you can be challenging, but important. Just as expressing gratitude for (or to) those you help is important. Being a grateful person allows one to view the world through a lens of abundance, see what life is offering, view life as a gift (even the things we don’t choose), and to feel satisfied with our life is much better than viewing life through a lens of scarcity, what life is denying us, burdensome, and feeling deprived by life. Noone is perfect, but doing our best to practicing gratitude on a regular basis will help us do that.