Ever since my middle school days, I haven’t really liked pumpkins much. When I was a kid, I spent hours each fall in the church parking lot working the pumpkin patch for a youth group fundraiser. The parent volunteers would take the money while the kids would carry the heavy pumpkins to cars and scoop rotten ones off the gravel and transport them to the dumpster. It wasn’t the most pleasant smell.
But, I may be coming around to the humble pumpkin thanks to an idea my wife had a few Novembers ago. She suggested we buy a big pumpkin and leave it in the center of our dining room table. Each day leading up to Thanksgiving, every family member would write something they were thankful for on the pumpkin. I thought it would be a tough ask for four weeks, but I was surprised how simply thinking intentionally about what made me grateful consistently brought new things to mind. By Thanksgiving, our pumpkin was covered in ink. This time of year, people tend to reflect on all their blessings. If you’re struggling to find the words, here are 5 ways to show more gratitude.
1. Limit complaining.
It’s hard to feel gratitude when you have a bad attitude. Try to limit negative talk with everyone you interact with. That means your family, friends, coworkers, that boss you spar with—everyone! When we limit our complaining, we are choosing to be positive. When we are in a positive frame of mind, it’s easier to see the things for which to be grateful.It’s hard to feel gratitude when you have a bad attitude.
2. Get back to basics.
Knowing how to show gratitude means readily showing appreciation for others. How? By doing the little things our grandmothers taught us as toddlers. It’s the basics, like saying “please” and “thank you.” It’s being respectful of others, not interrupting them when they’re speaking, and holding doors for people. Little things like that reorient us to being others-focused, and when we are focused on others we can be grateful for the impact they have on our lives.
3. Use more than words.
We all know actions speak louder than words. Doing for others is a way to show gratitude. Philippians 2:14 says to “do everything without grumbling or complaining.” It teaches us to not only do things for others but to do them with a joyful spirit. Putting the needs of others ahead of our own needs is selfless and honorable, but it’s important to remember that the way we do things matters, too.
4. Give more than you receive.
Jesus told his followers that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). If you wrote down all the blessings in your life, you’d quickly run out of ink and paper. These are not always material items. Money is a blessing, but so are time, talent, and relationships. We all have something we can give. When we step back and see all the resources at our fingertips and contemplate how we can use those for the good of others, the result will be gratitude for our many blessings.
5. Make it a habit.
I enjoy going around the table at Thanksgiving and listing off things to be thankful for, but if I never did it again until the following year, I’d feel depleted. Gratitude isn’t a one-time expression. When we practice it, it becomes second nature. This isn’t to say there are not negative things in life. There are. But, the positive carry so much more weight and often are taken for granted. Practice giving thanks and you’ll feel more grateful.
Sound off: Are you more likely to complain or give thanks for circumstances in life?
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Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are you most thankful for?”