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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Intentional Gratitude

Updated: Jan 8

A pen is ready to record what I am grateful for

In this season of Thanksgiving we are encouraged to have an “attitude of gratitude.” Really? Even in 2020, during a pandemic, one might ask?

Yes. Gratitude is needed now, more than ever.

How does one achieve such an attitude when there is so much fear, anxiety, division, and uncertainty in our lives? Is it even possible?

At times like these, gratitude does not come easily or naturally to most of us, as it tends to be a response to positive circumstances not a perspective we readily adopt during difficult times. Yet, it may be during difficult times that gratitude is needed most. Why?

Why do we need gratitude?

Because an attitude of gratitude changes us. A year ago, this blog shared how expressing gratitude and thankfulness is a practice that benefits us the more we practice it, providing physiological and psychological benefits. But, that was in 2019, you say, before COVID-19 changed our lives.

That is why, in 2020, we need to practice intentional gratitude. Being intentional is taking action before we feel like taking action. It demonstrates our commitment to doing something which serves a greater purpose.

Many people bristle at the phrase “fake it till you make it” because they feel it makes you a fraud. Maybe at times they are right. However, feelings do not have to precede taking action.

Acting grateful can lead to feeling grateful

In Chapter 12 of Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, the concept of reciprocal determinism is illustrated. Our behaviors are both the cause of and the result of numerous factors in three spheres: physical, social, and personal. Our personal sphere includes our attitudes, outcome expectations, internal resources, and personal agency.

The physical environment, social environment and personal sphere interact with behavior
Figure 12.4, Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide. Page 183

Actions can precede feelings and when actions can serve us and others favorably, taking action may be just what we need. An outcome of taking action can be the very feelings and emotions that were lacking. The act of gratitude can lead to feeling grateful.

Instead of making you a fraud, intentional gratitude may make you a hero. It takes courage to take action when the motive to achieve something is beyond your current emotional energy.

Give gratitude a try.

Try it – see if you are able to harbor negative emotions while expressing gratitude. This does not mean you stuff your negative emotions or ignore them. Rather, practicing gratitude gives us a perspective that helps us deal with negativity in ways that strengthen and empower us.

How does one practice gratitude?

  • Pause in this present moment and become aware of what you are grateful for

  • Journal daily or weekly, writing down at least three things you are grateful for

  • Think about someone you are grateful for

  • Practice saying thank you sincerely

  • Write (and send) a letter to someone you are grateful for

  • If you are a person of faith, say a prayer expressing thanks

In other words, count your blessings, look on the bright side, and find the silver linings.

Be intentional daily, not only at Thanksgiving.

“Gratitude and attitude are not challenges; they are choices.” ~ Robert Braathe

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