Our attitude is defined by the way we think and feel about life. It all begins with the way we see the world—which triggers a reaction, response, or behavior. Developing an "attitude of gratitude," or seeing the world in such a way that spawns a thankful heart, produces many positive results.
Studies in what has become known as the "science of gratitude," show that being grateful helps us feel more alive, promotes better sleep, fortifies our immune system, and even influences our looks. In short, grateful people are friendlier, healthier, happier, and even more attractive.
If you’re having trouble developing this habit in your life, then here are five suggestions to help you master an attitude of gratitude:
Develop the habit of "looking up."
We live in a world where we look downward while we text on phones, check our email, view iPads, or even when we walk. Much of the news is centered on looking at the downside of life and what's wrong on this planet. How much better would life be if we remember from time to time to look up, look outward, and look heavenward?
Years ago—before email, text, and Facebook connections—we moved our young family from Arizona to Michigan. My ninth-grader had to leave a lot of her friends, which created quite a bit of stress. When she came home each day from school, she would look down at the table or the desk for snail mail from her friends. I decided this might make a good teaching moment for her.
Since my wife and I were the ones who normally picked up the mail, we placed the letters and cards in high places in our home—a hanging light fixture, a high fireplace mantel, the top of a picture frame on the wall. This helped teach our daughter to "look up"—that's where we find happy things. Looking heavenward can bring happiness. Heavenly Father wants us to notice His blessings by looking to Him. At our house, "looking up" stuck! It's helped us be more thankful.
Start a gratitude journal or a tender mercy board in your home.
Anything that helps us to put our busy lives on pause—long and often enough to count and chronicle our blessings—will go a long way in developing an attitude of gratitude. On a daily basis, find a way to pause and take in these blessings.
Ask yourself: Where did I see God’s hand today? What happened for which I am thankful? How were even the tough moments of the day a blessing in disguise?
Writing and remembering blessings every day will make you more aware of His hand in your life. Maybe even try switching up your individual or family prayers, at least for a while. The morning prayer could be focused on asking for blessings that you or the family needs and the evening prayer could be centered on giving thanks.
Have you ever tried to offer a prayer of 100% gratitude? Not asking for anything? It surely makes you think about your long list of blessings, which can often seem overwhelming.
Make a list of all the people you are grateful for.
Take some time and make a list of all the people in your life that have changed your life for the better. As you make the list, write a few notes by their name stating why they are special to you and what they did that qualifies them to be on your list.
Go back as far as you can remember—teachers, friends, advisors, grandparents, parents, siblings, and anyone who touched your life for good. Make it an open list that can grow as you remember more experiences or meet new people.
This practice can be a great energizer to your life. God blesses us with spiritual and literal brothers and sisters who make a difference in our lives. Remembering them develops thankful threads in our hearts and minds.
Make a list of all the enriching experiences in your life.
Let your mind wander from your earliest recollections to what happened in recent days. What experiences, both hard and joyful, have blessed your life? Make a list and add a description of what the experience taught you and how you've become a better person for having lived it.
Be sure to include the adversities that made you stronger. Remember those special experiences which magnified your testimony or lifted your self-esteem. These experiences enlighten our view and generate gratitude in our lives.
Make a list of people you need to forgive.
Every major religion teaches about the renewing power of forgiving and letting go. The wellspring of gratitude is sometimes dammed in our minds when we cling to unkind feelings for others.
Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive? It could even be something so simple as a sarcastic comment or unintentional slip of someone’s tongue. Let go of those unkind feelings and see what happens to your heart. We become more grateful for those around us when we do as the Savior does. He forgives us and expects us to do the same. Love for life and thankfulness expands in our hearts as we forgive and let go.
Perhaps one of the most important people on your list is "you." Forgive yourself as you forgive others, and allow the Lord to break the dam and let gratitude flow to your heart.
If you need more help developing a grateful heart, check out more ideas in David A. Christensen's book, A Thankful Heart: 31 Teachings to Recognize Blessings in Your Life.