This Lent we are learning how to prune and plant to cultivate a harvest of love. When it comes to planting, spiritual masters and brain scientists agree that there is one practice more important than the rest: Gratitude. The Bible is jammed with encouragement to give thanks to God for everything, and brain scientists have shown us that living with a grateful heart improves the health of your body, improves your mood, sleep, income and even radically improves your sex life.
Unfortunately, gratitude is harder than it looks, not because we are bad, but because our brain is wired against it. Our brains are wired to automate tasks. For example, ever get home from work and have no memory of the drive? Yep, that is because your brain has automated your drive home. Brain automation removes real, conscious awareness from daily tasks. The problem: The same process blocks our heart’s conscious awareness of the love, beauty, novelty, deliciousness, and goodness that touch us every day. In short, we take life’s gifts for granted.
We can overcome this, however, and become masters of gratitude. Here’s how:
- Create a written gratitude list and continue to add to it. In 2016 I created a Word document (and pinned it so it always easily accessible). I have found these categories super helpful:
– People close to me: Qualities I appreciate, memories that bring a smile to my face;
– Places I have gone: Favorite vacations, places to relax, places to connect with God;
– Moments: Memories of when I sensed God’s presence such as the birth of children, significant healings and/or deaths, miracles/”coincidences”.
- Print out the list and keep it with your Bible or journal. Pray with it and add to it regularly. I started this process two years ago with less than half a page. Today I have a 5 ½ page gratitude list!
- Use it to bless people in your life. Send a daily email or text, and invite others to remember shared moments of gratitude or to simply express authentic appreciation. Begin to mention to others the things you appreciate, then invite others to share appreciations. (i.e., “So what do you appreciate about your spouse or family?”) Express one small appreciation per day and keep track on your Lenten Scorecard.
Gratitude is foundation of a healthy spiritual life. Lent is a great time to cultivate a powerful gratitude practice. Why not start today?