At the beginning of 2016, I decided to write down three things I was grateful for. Every single day.
The real question was how consistent I would be.
My Gratitude Data
It took me over an hour to pour through my 2 journals from 2016. I counted every day I missed and subtracted it from 366 days. Here are the numbers from my gratitude project:
I missed 55 days
I was consistent for 311 days
311 days x 3 gratitudes= 933 gratitudes
My first response was surprise. How did I miss that many days? If only this article was entitled, “Why I Wrote Down 1,098 Things I’m Grateful For”!
The first couple of months were easy but as time moved on, thinking of things to be grateful for became much harder.
That is what surprised me the most.
A Gratitude Eye-Opener
Let’s be honest. You can only write down you’re grateful for oatmeal, a home, and your Pilot G-2 pen so many times.
I wanted to write something down each time that was unique and different. As I forced myself to go through this process every day, it opened my eyes to 2 things:
1. The reality of how ungrateful I was.
2. The truth that nurturing an attitude of gratitude takes work.
And therein lies the problem.
But I Am Grateful!
In college, my favorite professor spent an entire class talking about gratefulness. He explained that Christian young people’s greatest failure was … you guessed it, ungratefulness.
Here’s the irony: most people would say they are grateful. We have convinced ourselves that we appreciate all the blessings around us. And we have blinded ourselves to the depths of our ingratitude.
If that’s true, what should our response be? Before we begin working on our ungratefulness, let’s gain a deeper understanding of gratefulness first.
The Source of Gratitude
In some circles, talking about gratitude has become “trendy,” even “cool.” And that’s a problem.
If you do a cursory study on gratefulness, you’ll find that gratitude leads to many benefits. Researchers have discovered that gratitude contributes to positivity, well-being, and overall happiness. The evidence for the connection between gratefulness and health is incredible.
Don’t get me wrong — all those are wonderful things. But what’s interesting is that I often see gratitude prescribed as a secret to happiness. If you want more positivity and better health, pursue gratefulness.
And that seriously misses the point.
Gratitude? Missing the point?
Let me explain.
In Deuteronomy, the Hebrew people are on the brink of the promised land. It was a land flowing with milk and honey, full of brooks, fountains, springs, valleys, hills, wheat, barley, vines, fig trees, pomegranates, olives, honey, and bread.
Before they enter in, claim this land, and enjoy the blessings, Moses reminds the people:
“And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” – Deuteronomy 8:10
Moses wanted the people to look beyond what they had been given. To not just be thankful for the blessings, but to see the Source of the blessings. To praise, bless, and adore God from whom all goodness flows.
We pursue gratitude not because it is the secret to happiness. We pursue gratitude for deeper joy in God. Health, happiness, and well-being are just icing on the cake.
The Secret Formula to Gratitude
C. S. Lewis puts it this way:
I have tried…to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I mean something different. How shall I put it? …Gratitude exclaims, very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations [“sparkling or flashing light”] are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun. (Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer)
Gratitude is only half of the equation. We need: gratitude + adoration
Yes, be grateful. Have an attitude of gratitude by:
Writing down what you are grateful for daily.
Sending a personal note to thank someone.
Telling someone how much you appreciate them.
Put the gratefulness into action. But don’t stop there. Follow those sunbeams back to the Sun. Look to the Source – our glorious Creator and Lord – and adore Him.
To Him we praise with thanksgiving!
“I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” – Psalm 7:17
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” – Psalm 100:4
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Wow! This is really great and timely. Great idea to write down things you’re thankful for. And good point about tracing it back to the source. It reminds me of the verse in James “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
Thanks Jason. Awesome verse. I wish I had thought of that passage for the article!
Love that verse!
Are you doing it again this year?
Sorta of! Instead of writing three things I am grateful for every day, I am writing down one thing. Except this time, I am trying to make it longer and more of a full sentence.
Very good, even though in my family every night we say what we are thankful for the day. But what you did, is literally amazing! Today I’m already thankful for one thing is that you wrote this article of gratitude.
Just keep being grateful, you are going to be a shinning example to other teens in the article, and people around you.
Thank you for the kind words Michael! I love the idea of sharing what you are grateful for with your family every night.
Thanks for the reminder! I am not that consistent myself, but I have started a Thanksgiving journal that I write in on occasion, although I usually am only reminded to use it on some of my really rough days when I don’t want to be thankful at all for anything.
Thank you Hannah! I’ll be honest with you – it was the “really rough days” that I often skipped writing something down (which, of course, defeats the whole purpose of having a gratitude journal!).
My mom did something like this a couple of years ago; I think I might start this alongside my verse journal… I have been trying to write down a verse that’s meant something to me every day… Thanks Samuel for the idea!
Wow, love the concept of a verse journal! Combining the two would be an excellent idea.
Wow. That’s a really good idea. Coming up with a new verse everyday must be challenging, but with great rewards.
I admit – I’ve never been great at reading my Bible everyday, the journal helps me to do that. The rewards are great! Although, I really should start memorizing them more often!
Very encouraging and eye-opening, I hope to start something similar!
Thanks Jonathan! Yes, I would definitely encourage you to at least try it for a couple of weeks.
Thank you,Samuel, for this wonderful article. It really encouraged me to start being more grateful and have adoration for God. I hope to start something like you did in my journal. Thank you! 🙂
I’m glad Anne that this was able to encourage you! Thank you so much for the kind words.
This was a really great article! I find myself asking God for things, or for Him to help me with problems in my life, than thanking him. I know that he loves when I do ask Him, but he loves it just as much when I thank and worship Him.There just has to be that balance that I don’t quite have down yet. Thanks for writing this!
Thank you! I know what you mean. So many times, I also fall into the trap of always asking and never thanking. It really is a hard balance for every Christian!
This is so true!
Fantastic article. Thanks for sharing these eye-opening truths about gratitude. 🙂
Thank you Haylie!
Thanks Samuel! I especially like the part where you said…
Do you suggestion any tangible habits we can practice to give us a heart for adoration?
Thank you Trent! Wow, what a deep question. First off, a disclaimer 🙂
I am no expert on gratitude or even the subject of adoration. But I’ll give this my best shot.
One good habit is writing down the daily gratitudes. Not a going-through-the-motions-look-how-grateful-and-happy-I-am. Instead, it is a reminder of who is blessing us with these things. And the more we realize how God is working in our lives — the more we are filled with adoration.
I am sure there are many good habits that could develop a “heart of adoration”. But at the end of the day, it comes down to one thing — studying the revealed Word of God.
I love how Peter puts in 2 Peter 3:18: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” Grow in Christ. Grow in His revealed Word. Grow in adoration.
Hi Sam! I think the story you tell is a strong one!, stronger than most would think!
I’m not that strong… yet.
Your view on gratitude reminds me of one of the video games I played at one point: Legends of Zelda Skyward Sword.
Now, I will not rant on about this, but you eventually find a demon beneath Skyloft (starting hub of the game) who wishes nothing more than to turn into a human and be accepted into the residential area above. To do that, he needs gratitude crystals.
If I am grateful, than in a sense I earn gratitude crystals and slowly rid the demons from inside of me. Thank you for opening my eyes to the power of gratitude!
Thanks Brennen! I have never played Zelda, but that is a cool illustration.
This article was amazing! I’m definitely inspired to be intentional about my gratitude. This was a huge help, and a push in the right direction for me. I might just try your 3/day challenge…
Thank you Tim. I hope this encourages you to try it!
What a fabulous idea! During the month of November, a magazine I’m subscribed to (King’s Blooming Rose magazine for girls) gives a #givethanksx7 challenge, in which you’re supposed to write down 7 things you’re thankful for every day in the month of November. It really did help to do that and I continued into December. One day recently, I was having a really frustrating day and I sat down and wrote down things I was thankful for until I got “un-frustrated” (at least a bit). It took me 23 things but it did help me calm down some. Thank you for pointing out adoration as an important component in the equation – so many times I forget about that part!!!
Love the idea of writing down 7 things for one month.
For those days that are frustrating, writing down gratefulnesses can really help. That is awesome you wrote down 23!
Thank you for this article! I think you’re very right – we tend to have an almost legalistic attitude about being grateful sometimes. Like if we just remember to say thank you we’ll be happier and life will generally be better. But true joy only comes from God. I continually struggle with prizing the gifts God has given me above the Giver Himself, so this was a very timely encouragement.
I’ve been wanting to start writing down things I’m grateful for, too. I’ve tried before, but never gotten very far. This was a good motivation to start again!
Thank you Katherine!
Where did you go to college?
Thomas A. Edison State College and Amridge University.
So you went to a secular College as well as a Bible College? That is great. Right now I am still in the Secular setting, and I have grown so much as a person and as a Christian.
Jumping in here–I really liked your recent article about being a witness in a secular college. 🙂
Aw thank you! Im glad it was an encouragement to you!
This is such a great idea! I greatly enjoy reading things like this. You are an encouragement to us all, so thank you 🙂 I am working on a project with my blog and youtube channel to raise money to build a well in Africa, as well as raise awareness. We are so blessed here in America and the developed countries. We take so many things for granted. Some very large things, and some more menial. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I love how you wrapped adoration in there. It makes so much sense. Again, thank you!
I think it’s amazing that you’re going to buy a well for a community in Africa!! I just bought one in December!! 🙂 What organization are you going to use? I worked with Food for the Hungry. How close are you to your fundraising goal? Sorry if I rambled, I just get so excited to hear about other young people doing things like this! 😀
That is AWESOME! Well, I plan on hopefully moving to Uganda when i am done with school and doing full-time missions 🙂 I am going through “The Water Project” because It was easier for me to build a website. I had to do it that way because not only am I campaigning on my online platforms, but also on my secular college campus. My goal is $500 or more. But if we get to 500 I said that I would chop my hair off haha. I just started a few days ago so I am about 14%! Hahaha no no! I love it haha. Here is my website: http://bit.ly/2kaXTca
And here is my youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZE6To31u5Q
I am so excited that you did this too! SOOO awesome!
I will definitely check out those links!! Wow – full time missions, so cool! I am going on my first missions trip in March, I’ll be going to Mexico. 🙂 I really hope to go to Haiti before I graduate high school though!
That is so awesome!!!! and Thank YOU! 🙂
Thanks Emma! That is wonderful you are passionate about missions. Where in Africa is the well being built?
Your are VERY welcome 🙂 Thank you! Actually I’m not sure yet! hahaha! The organization has told me that they will see how much money I bring in, and then decide what immediately needs to be done 🙂
Thank you for this very encouraging reminder, Samuel. I am keeping a gratitude journal this year, and this is a wonderful reminder for me to not just to write things down, but to “follow the sunbeams to the sun,” and to not make gratitude just “an act” but an act of worship and adoration of God. Thank you for writing this!
Thanks Savannah! Just “going through the motions” is something that all Christians – including myself – struggle with. In many ways, this article was a reminder for myself!
I do that every time I write an article-Self, you better listen up
Wow. This reached the root of Christianity, Samuel. It is fantastic when we read verses about gratitude and notice that God appears there. This means that for gratitude we need to find the presence of the Provider. And in this equation gratitude + worship = God is glorified.
When we thank, we find the grace of God, for He allows us to glorify His name.
When I am grateful, I feel stronger and weaker at the same time. It is as if I depended totally on God’s salvation in all moments of my life: during my asthmatic crisis, for a moment with my friends, at times when we are sad for the life we live. Or when we learn something different from God. I feel strong because my pride is broken and I notice the uniqueness that is to pursue the path that Jesus opened.
Yes, it blew me away how there were so many verses that tied gratitude with praise toward God. I just so happened to be reading the Psalms when I wrote this article, so that really helped 🙂
Thanks! Good job with the article.
Thank you Cora!
Cool article Sam! It was really awesome what you said about gratefulness and it being half of the equation. I agreed with all of it.
This is a really inspiring project.
Maybe later if it isn’t too much of a hassle, submit the list of 933 things you are grateful for. I would adore that.
Thank you so much for writing this.
Your article inspired me to try and write down 3 things I’m grateful for every day!😀
Samuel! This is the second article of yours I read, and it’s really good! 🙂 Reading it got me to thinking…we find it hard to be grateful, and thinking of 3 things a day to be thankful for is challenging! (I’ve tried it! I think I only got to 500 or something.) 🙁 But what I was gonna say is that Adam and Eve lived in a PERFECT garden and walked and talked with God in an amazing way/relationship, and yet…they were not grateful. They had to have the “forbidden fruit” too. Americans live in such luxury and yet we find it hard to be grateful for just 3 things a day. My first thought is “Why is that?” And my second thought is “What is wrong with us Americans?” :-/ Thanks for posting! 🙂
Thank you so much Erica! That is such an incredible point about the garden of Eden. Here Adam and Eve were surrounded by all this perfection, yet they still wanted to become “like gods” and define good and evil on their own terms.
Why do we have such a hard time finding things to be grateful for? Unfortunately, our sinful nature often blinds us to all the goodness surrounding us. Satan wants us to see the bad and what we don’t have. God wants us to see the unfathomable depths of what we will always have in Him.
So ungratefulness is a problem that encompasses more than just Americans – it includes all humans.
At the same time, I think Americans are especially guilty of ingratitude. It comes down to a combination of materialism, entitlement, self-obsession, and individualism – all the result of a people who have lost focus on God. Again, all of this is not confined to America, but we definitely seem to be the most egregious. It’s fascinating (and sad) how materialistic we are compared to other countries. And from what we read in the prophets concerning Israel and Judah, we’re reaching a breaking point of what God is going to put up with.
I agree, Samuel! I really like what you said about “Satan wants us to see the bad and what we don’t have. God wants us to see the unfathomable depths of what we will always have in Him.” You have lots of insight and wisdom! I can tell you are a wonderful man of God. 🙂