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June 25, 2014
Light for My Path
How Gratitude?
by Kathryn Grant

As much as we sometimes wish otherwise, most things worth having don’t just happen spontaneously. We have to plan for them and work at them. We have to do sanity checks and course corrections. It’s that way with gratitude.

In his general conference talk “You Know Enough,” Elder Neil L. Andersen noted that faith is not just a feeling, but a decision too. It’s the same with gratitude. We can choose to be grateful. And that choice can change our whole mental landscape, bringing it more into line with truth — with “things as they really are” (Jacob 2:3).

The decision or choice to be grateful finds support in two key habits of mind: observation and remembrance. Our gratitude increases as we notice the blessings that constantly come into our lives, obvious and less obvious. We further increase our capacity for gratitude as we find a way to remember them.

Try an experiment right now. Look around you, wherever you may be, and notice the blessings that are immediately apparent. Are you seeing the glory of sunlight? The miracle of electricity?

Do you have running water? Adequate clothing? Technology that makes your life easier? Air to breathe? Scriptures to read? If you look further in your mind’s eye, do you see a church nearby? A library? A school? A temple?

Now think about less tangible things: the ability to pray; relationships that bless your life; challenges that provide opportunities for growth and service; unexpected but constant tender mercies. As we look around and count our blessings, we realize our lives are literally flooded with them.

Once we notice our blessings, how do we keep them alive in our minds, stop them from fading away? There are probably many strategies; here are three.

Keep a journal. Make a point to record things you’re grateful for in a regular journal, or keep a journal focused on gratitude, as Henry B. Eyring and Ann Voskamp did. The very act of recording things to be grateful for etches them more clearly in our minds.

Raise an Ebenezer. When the Lord opened a miraculous path for the children of Israel across the River Jordan, he instructed them to gather memorial stones (also called Ebenezers). Why? As a visual reminder of their miraculous deliverance.

These stones would inspire not only those who experienced the miracle, but their descendants as well. (See Raising Your Ebenezer: A Monument to Remember.) What symbol or visual reminder could you use to call to mind past blessings?

Encourage others to be grateful. After doing something with friends or family, ask everyone, “What were some of your favorite things about today?” This question gets the conversation going in a positive direction, and all eyes are opened to gratitude as blessings are recounted and relived.

I know several people who, when asked how they are, will almost inevitably sigh and list things they’re unhappy about. If we have a habit of being negative, it may take repeated effort to stop the spontaneous donning of cloud-colored glasses. In that case, some advice from Elder Uchtdorf may offer the fastest, most effective solution: Stop it! Don’t even start down the ungrateful path. That makes it much easier to replace a negative mindset with a grateful one.

Admittedly, there are times when it’s easy to be grateful and times when it’s not so easy. But gratitude may actually be a lifesaver in the hardest of times. Why that’s so will be the subject of our next column.

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