In this blog, I will share my experiences with a positive psychology activity that helps people feel more grateful quickly and easily. First, I’ll briefly discuss gratitude and its benefits, and then my experiences trying a simple activity (Three Good Things) that helped me experience more gratitude and joy in my life.
Why Should Christians Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude?
Before his crucifixion, Jesus tells his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV). Pain, suffering, and hardship are part of the experience of disciples of Christ, and will be until his return. Sometimes as Christians, we struggle with bitterness, anger, and depression. These experiences can weigh down our hearts and make us feel old, cranky, and unmotivated to participate in worship or to forgive others. Gratitude can be difficult to muster, when the skies are cloudy and families and communities struggle.
Yet we are instructed by Paul, despite our suffering, to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4, NIV), and to live in constant thanksgiving, “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20, NIV). Living a grateful life is important for believers in Christ.
Additionally, positive psychology researchers have found substantial evidence that turning our attention to gratitude has some tangible emotional and physical benefits (For more information on the research on gratitude, check out The Neuroscience of Gratitude and Effects on the Brain (Chowdhury, 2019). They explain that small tasks can make a big impact on our overall mental health. One such task is turning our attention to gratitude in simple ways every day.
Three Good Things
Last August, I was feeling run down after several years of dealing with COVID and its after effects on the American public school system. Even though I have so much to be thankful for, I was having trouble connecting with the real successes and blessings God was bringing into my life. So, I made a commitment to try a short, simple activity called the “Three Good Things” activity, for one week. You can learn more from this video by Martin Seligman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOGAp9dw8Ac (Seligman, 2009). This activity can be done with a piece of paper and pencil, or you can download free apps for your phone that do the same thing.
All you need to do to complete this activity is to write down three good things that went well that day. Then, reflect on why they went well.
The Difference it Made
These simple journal entries made a big difference in how I viewed what was going well in my life. It turned out quite a bit was going well, and I had been undervaluing the blessings God has brought into my life.
Completing this activity every night informed my prayers and helped me experience more thanksgiving and joy. Many nights, it was difficult to stop at just writing down three good things! This simple commitment helped me remember just how abundantly God has blessed me. I began to feel more grateful and happier, and I began to think of myself as a lot more successful than I realized. It also me realize that a lot of the little mistakes and challenges that caused me stress were a lot less important than I thought.
I also noticed a lot about how I actually define success for myself. Most of my “good things” were social- nice times with my family, friends, and making an impact in my work with clients and students. It motivated me to move toward taking care of my family, friends, and community.
I committed to one week, but one week turned into four months! Right away, I noticed this simple activity was improving my ability to feel grateful for the little things in my life. Some things that went well were quite small, but others were quite remarkable.
How This Activity Helped Me Pray
Although this activity doesn’t directly instruct people to pray, I found it immensely easy to add to my nightly prayers. I wrote down things like, “I rested when I needed to rest.” Then I could pray, “thank you God, for opportunities to rest”. Or I might write, “there was peace upon leaving my house this morning.” Then I could pray, “Thank you God, for peace at home.” This was a simple way to meditate on God’s goodness and to thank Him for the many, many blessings in my life.
Would I Recommend You Try “Three Good Things?”
Yes! I can heartily recommend trying this simple gratitude activity, especially in the midst of the turbulence of holiday season. I hope you will try it for a week and see what you discover! I also hope you will use it to help you meditate with a grateful heart on the many ways God has blessed you.
Seligman, M. (2009, November 19). Three Good Things [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOGAp9dw8Ac
Chowdhury, M. (2019, April 9th). The Neuroscience of Gratitude and Effects on the Brain. PositivePsychology.Com. https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/
Carolyn Cummings is a marriage and family therapist, adjunct professor, and doctoral student. More importantly, she is the proud wife of a wonderful husband and mother to three unbelievably cute daughters. Carolyn enjoys dark chocolate, coffee, butterflies, and singing for the Lord.