Prior to age 38, I didn't practice gratitude much. For a variety of reasons, most prominently a lack of faith and God in my life, I tended toward self-involvement and negativity.
Now this doesn't mean I was never appreciative or happy. At times I was, but only when it was easy to be.
True gratitude comes out in the difficult times, I think. True gratitude is a light in the darkness.
Not only is gratitude like a muscle, I also think it is an art. Its shape changes depending on your circumstances. For example, a pastor once gave a sermon on finding gratitude on bad days.
Wouldn't ya know, later that day our car broke down on a country dirt road in 95-degree heat, 5 miles from town at 6 p.m. What a perfect opportunity to drive this point home to the boy! So I said, "Let's do what the pastor said. Wow, thank goodness it's only 95 and not 110 like it was last week! Thank goodness it's not dark! Thank goodness we have family in town who can pick us up."
The initial inclination is to moan and groan about being stuck and stranded, but there was no good in that. We let my husband fix the problem and we walked around looking at rocks and plants to occupy ourselves. Exercise! A bonus!
I'll end with this statement from my current pastor during a recent sermon: "Gratitude is a Magical Attitude." He pointed to several things it does, as taken from a late-1880s sermon by John Broadus on The Habit of Thankfulness:
* It stops complaining.
* It soothes distress.
* It enhances joy.
* It alleviates anxiety.
* It deepens our penitence.
* It brightens hope.
* It strengthens us.