Here’s a very simple idea that will help cultivate the habit of intentional gratitude. Keep a daily gratitude journal. Every day, and preferably at the same time each day, write five things you’re thankful for. Don’t try to be deep or fancy. Just write what comes to mind -- the blue of the sky, a hot cup of coffee, dog fur. The small things tend to lead to the big things, and in the end even the small things turn out to be the stuff of miracles.
At first, you’ll probably find that you write one or two things and then get stuck, but that won’t last. By the end of the week, five things won’t be enough, and you’ll be adding more. If you turn green at the idea of putting pen to paper, take heart. We’re only talking about a few short phrases. And if you think you’re too busy, reconsider. This will only take five minutes, and it may well be the most fruitful five minutes of your day.
Keeping a gratitude journal underscores something crucial: gratitude is a choice, not a feeling. We’re never told in scripture to feel thankful, because we can’t make ourselves feel one way or another. It’s like trying not to have a headache. What we can do, though, is choose to give thanks. One of the surprises is that, in the relief of thankfulness, the gift of thankful feelings often follows. But, either way, feelings are only the caboose, never the engine.
“Thou hast given so much to me; give one thing more -- a grateful heart . . . such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.” George Herbert