If you are like me, you have an “inner whiner.” For example, you are at the beach on vacation, and you think, “Ugh, it’s too hot! Or after eating a meal out, “Yuck, I am so full!” or on a rainy Saturday, “Arggg, I am so bored!” We don’t consider the fact that most people in the world never go on a vacation, experience a full belly, or have the luxury of lying on the couch all day. Our “inner whiner” speaks, and we listen. I am not pointing fingers. I am confessing. Well, okay, maybe I am, only because I don’t think I am alone in this. So, what do we do to foster the “attitude of gratitude” that we hear so much about during this time of the year and tune out our “inner monologue of complaint”?
You are likely sitting in the doctor’s or dentist’s office waiting to be called, so let me offer an incentive to continue reading this article before you jump back on Facebook. Hundreds of studies have proven an unshakable link between gratitude and happiness. Google it, if you are a cynic like me. Thankful people are happy people. And on the contrary, there is a strong link between the amount of time we spend on social media (like Facebook) and unhappiness and even depression. So, in short, if you want to be happy, keep reading, if you don’t get back on your Facebook App.
So, how can we foster gratitude if we tend to be whiners…even if we keep our complaints to ourselves? Jesus tells this great story in the gospels about these ten guys with leprosy. You can find it in Luke 17. The ten guys having leprosy is not the “great” part, to be clear. It is the reaction of the one after he is healed. Jesus heals all of them, but nine in their reverie take off and are never heard of again…well, at least not in our story. But one returns. The ex-leper throws himself down at Jesus’ feet, which is an act of worship, and proclaims his gratitude to God. The weight of the story leans more on the nine who skedaddled, rather than the one who came back.
There is much going on in the story to unpack, but since the nurse is likely to call your name at any moment (assuming I am right above about your current location), let’s get to the point before it’s too late. To foster gratitude, especially for an internal whiner like me, it takes intentionality. Like the man, formerly known as a leper, who returned, we need to make a conscious decision to give God thanks. Some do this by creating a gratitude journal and updating it every day. Others take the first few waking moments to thank God for all the good things in their life. If you are like me and can’t conjure up any thoughts (good or not) before coffee, waiting till later in the day or even at night is perfectly acceptable. The timing doesn’t matter, but the intentionality does. In short, don’t leave our thanksgiving to chance. Carve time out not only on the last Thursday of November, but during a moment in each day to reenact the action of the returning ex-leper in Luke’s gospel.
If you made it this far, let me offer one last suggestion. Maybe, just for this month alone, every time you go to check your Facebook page, twitter account, Tick Tock, etc., thank God instead for three things. It doesn’t have to be a big “thing” like a miraculous healing from a skin, or even a nerve, disease. It can be as simple as being grateful for another day of life, for a particular friendship, or even for a sunny day…which is actually rather miraculous in November. And if we do this and the studies are right, not only will we lower the volume of our inner whiner, we will live more joyful and satisfied lives. Because grateful people are happier people.