For centuries, our nation has been conditioned to turn its focus to a season of gratitude as we usher in the autumn months. In more recent years, many have even begun to turn to social media to record their daily “thankful fors” throughout the month of November. The Bible is full of verses that encourage us to practice the discipline of giving thanks. Thessalonians 5:18 even describes giving thanks in all circumstances as God’s work for us. Thanksgiving, therefore is not something we should exhibit for only a season, but is instead, a year-round assignment.
By the very definition of the word, “work” is not something that comes easily, but rather requires effort. However, with practice and discipline, we can hone our ability to exhibit gratefulness to the point that it becomes second nature. Here are a few ways to help cultivate an attitude of perpetual gratitude:
Be intentional about expressing appreciation to others.
No man is an island. Most of us interact with others on a daily basis, and these encounters often result in their providing help, support or encouragement that enriches our lives. This could range from refilling our drinks at dinner, to collaborating on a project at work, or simply listening. When a thought of gratitude for someone who has blessed you crosses your mind, act on it right away instead of dismissing it. This might mean penning an “old fashioned” thank you note (a true novelty in today’s day and age), sending a quick (but specific) text message of thanks, or even a more public recognition of appreciation by means of a social media post. While any one of these methods of thanks would not doubt be well-received, face-to-face interaction is hard to top. A heart-felt, spoken expression of thankfulness (perhaps more than just the word, “Thanks”) coupled with eye contact and a genuine smile can convey a warmth that blesses both the speaker and the recipient.
Take the Joy Dare.
Writer, Ann Voscamp has an excellent, free online resource available for developing a spirit of thanksgiving 365 days a year. The Joy Dare, best completed as a journaling project, consists of a daily prompt challenging the writer to search for gifts (or blessings) in three, specific categories. These daily cues help the writer to think outside of the box, and keep their eyes open to common place blessings that might have otherwise escaped their attention. As the project goes on, the participant will find that they have become conditioned to looking for blessings all around them, contributing to a sense of wonder and appreciation in the every day.
“It’s habits that can imprison you and it’s habits that can free you. But when thanks to God becomes a habit – so joy in God becomes your life.”
Various studies have shown that keeping a gratitude list may contribute to a relative absence of stress and depression, progress toward important personal goals, higher levels of determination an energy, deepen existing relationships and desire to build stronger relationships, and increase general happiness by 25%. With all the benefits of a lifestyle of thanksgiving, it becomes more apparent that God has intended this “work” for our good.
Dedicate time in prayer, specifically for giving thanks.
As we become more attuned to the practice of pausing and reflecting on our blessings, it is only appropriate to express our thanks to the One from whom every good and perfect gift comes (James 1:17). If we aren’t careful, daily (or even less-frequent) prayer time can easily become a laundry list of needs and wants that no-doubt paint us as ungrateful, entitled children to our Father. Instead of leading with a list of demands, try opening your time of prayer in reflection of who God is and spend some time simply thanking Him for these aspects of His character and the specific ways in which you have sensed His presence. Similarly to the Joy Dare—when we pause and ponder God’s movement in our life, it helps shift our perspective and focus to details we may have otherwise overlooked in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.
God unceasingly lavishes his love and mercy on us every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). This year, don’t wait for November to start counting blessings.. Begin giving thanks right now, and let it become a way of life as you lean into the work God has called you to, year-round.
Recommended Reading: Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp
Woods et al., 2008
 Emmons and McCullough, 2003
 Emmons and Mccullough, 2003
 Algoe and Haidt, 2009
 McCullough et al., 2002