Starting the year with gratitude

Gratitude … takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive,
is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.
For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience.
And that is what makes all the difference.
Thomas Merton

Nowadays we can hear a lot about the benefits of practicing gratitude. Research has shown that gratitude can improve both mental and physical health, and “not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health”. A number of studies revealed other benefits, such as improvement in self-esteem, better sleep, reduced stress and even a help in overcoming trauma.

Personally I have experienced that on a bad day my mood can shift to having a better attitude when I take time to bring to mind all that I am grateful for. The practice of gratitude is one the best gifts we can give ourselves. It costs us nothing and is very simple to do. It does, however, require a little bit of effort, discipline if you like, but as anything worthwhile, it is valuable to invest time in it.

Gratitude does not deny negative things that happen in life but it puts them into perspective and helps us to face them with renewed inner strength and more determination. In Philippians 4:8 we read, “beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”. It further says that if we keep doing these things, “the God of peace” will be with us. God is with us always, but when we practice gratitude it will help to bring God’s goodness into our awareness.

If we want to make gratitude part of our daily routine, we can do so by writing a gratitude journal. We can treat ourselves to a journal that appeals to us aesthetically, and then start noting what we are thankful for on its pages. Each day we can write a few things that we are grateful for that particular day. Another way is to have a gratitude jar. We can take an empty jar and decorate it to make it personal. Then every day on a little paper we write something we are grateful for and put it in a jar. At the end of each month, or at the end of each year, we can open the jar and read what we wrote.

Gratitude will bring a new dimension to our lives, a deeper flavour to our life’s experiences. It helps us notice new growth, it turns despair into hope. May something stunning blossom for you over the next twelve months – even if it is ‘only’ you.

Iva Beranek
Dr Iva Beranek is the Ministry Facilitator for the CMH: Ireland