The holiday season is a great time to work on developing an attitude of gratitude, especially when dealing with all the craziness that the holidays bring to your church. Some of the latest and best research in the field of psychology indicates that a grateful heart is one of the most important keys to happiness and overall health. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on the subject, people who consistently practice gratitude come in for a long list of practical personal benefits. Physically, they have stronger immune systems, better sleep patterns, lower blood pressure, and fewer aches and pains. Psychologically, they’re more alert, display higher levels of positive emotions, and get more joy and pleasure out of life. Socially, they’re more outgoing, more forgiving and compassionate, and report far fewer feelings of loneliness and isolation.
How can you become the kind of pastor whose natural tendency is to give thanks in every situation (1 Thessalonians 5:18)? Dr. Emmons and author Jim Collins offer the following suggestions:
- Keep a gratitude journal. Writing things down is a great way to make them more memorable, more real, and more accessible to the conscious mind.
- Practice counting your blessings. Make it a habit to count your blessings on a regular basis. Just tick them off on your fingers before going to bed at night.
- Use concrete reminders. Come up with something tangible that you can do every day as a way of directing your thoughts towards the many blessings God has poured out on you. Try keeping a “Gratitude Jar” on the kitchen shelf where you can collect spare change. When the jar is full, donate it to a needy family or some worthy cause.
- Think outside the box. Remember Pollyanna and her “Glad Game?” There’s always something positive to be gleaned from every circumstance, no matter how bleak it seems on the outside.
- Window vs. mirror. When life misfires, grateful people “look in the mirror” and ask themselves, “Where did I go wrong? What can I learn from this?” When things turn out well, they “look through the window” and give credit where credit is due – to the miraculous grace of God and to the many other people who have helped them achieve their goals.
If you can discipline yourself to make these five practices a regular part of your weekly routine, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a genuinely grateful pastor.