November brings with it thoughts of gratitude. After all, Thanksgiving is later in this month. Social media outlets have gratitude challenges where participants post something every day for which they are thankful.
In her book, Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks, Diana Butler Bass writes “Gratitude is more than just an emotion. It is also a disposition that can be chosen and cultivated, an outlook toward life that manifests itself in actions—it is an ethic.” Gratitude is a disposition to be chosen and cultivated. Thinking of something for which to be grateful every day changes my disposition. I find it nearly impossible to hang on to a negative disposition once I start thinking about what I have to be grateful for.
When I was in seminary, I worked very part time as a chaplain in a skilled nursing facility. One of the suggestions of my mentor at the time was to engage residents in conversations about gratitude. Even the most curmudgeonly among them would change their outlook as we talked about gratitude. Old memories would come up often followed by a smile and a shift in mood.
In my own times of negativity, I have found that keeping a gratitude journal helps me stay focused on the positive. I have a journal (I use a composition book you can get at any place that sells school supplies) that I write in to list the things I have to be grateful for at the moment I am writing. Reading past entries in the journal usually lifts my spirits and reminds me of what I have to be grateful for.
In a recent conversation with our Transitional Conference Minister, Rev. David Long-Higgins, Dave said “Gratitude is a shift in energy which brings about transformation.” It truly is. And gratitude is something to stay focused on during these challenging times of 2020.