The best lesson I received on gratitude was when my husband and I were given the counsel to keep a gratitude journal for each other.
It was during a time in our marriage that each of us was feeling unappreciated by the other. A friend and family therapist suggested that we buy two sturdy journals, two really great pens that didn’t easily smudge, and every day write at least five things we were grateful for about the other person.
After we’d write what we were grateful for, we’d exchange journals and read the entries. I don’t think either of us thought that much would come out of it, but because we desired a better relationship, we dove in. For me, it was initially very hard to come up with something different every day. It challenged me to look beyond the obvious and acknowledge the subtle acts of service from my husband.
Reading the entries also took some humility. I had to let go of the inclination to ask, “But what about when I …” and graciously accept whatever gratitude was given.
I had to realize that it wasn’t a competition (although there may have been a few times I did something a little extra to get noticed). It was about acknowledging the big things and the little things that people do to help make our day, our week, a little brighter. This exercise drew us closer together and made us more mindful of expressing gratitude regularly, if not daily.
It is an exercise that I recently thought about extending to our children. There has been an increase in contention in the home that I feel is connected to ingratitude. Somewhere, somehow they’ve picked up this sense of entitlement. Outside of service, I’ve been pondering activities that would increase humility. Remembering the success it had in our marriage, I’m hopeful that it will do the same for our children.
The scriptures tell us to give thanks for everything. During the recent general conference, President Thomas S. Monson counseled us on the gift of gratitude. Expressing gratitude is important not only for our loved ones and friends but also to our Father in heaven. I make an effort daily to give thanks to him for all that he has given me.
I’ve even begun to put into practice the counsel by Elder David A. Bednar to say a prayer simply of thanksgiving, not asking for anything. This practice puts in perspective how much I need and rely on Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, let giving thanks not be just for a season. Gratitude is truly one of those gifts that is better to give and to receive.