Cultivating a Life You Love// Part Three: Be Filled With Gratitude

Over the past few weeks, we've gone over a few things to help us cultivate a life we love. A few of the things we've covered were saying no to things that don't add value to our lives or the lives of others and saying yes to things that do. Now we've come to our final week. Yes, I know originally said it was going to be a four-parter, but I realized that two of my points could be combined, so that's what we have today.

Anywho, we're going to talk about filling ourselves with gratitude. I dare say all of us, including myself, could use more gratitude in life. I often find myself wrapped up in the blah of life and I don't really spend any time being grateful.

Today I'm going dive into a few things that really have helped me as I've worked on developing a mentality of gratitude. I'm still working on it, but these were great starting points.

~Do things that make you happy~

"Earth may be going to hell in a handbasket, but at least there's seafood..."
Dr. Derek Thomas

That is possibly one of my favorite quotes of all time, from my favorite sermon of all time (aside from the sermon on the mount, of course) entitled "Why Presbyterians Should Enjoy Life". Regardless of if you're Presbyterian or not, you should go listen to that sermon ASAP. You will go from laughing your heart out to weeping tears of joy and back again. After years of being told I was far too silly and childish for loving the things that brought a smile to my face, it was a breath of fresh air to me. Everyone, and I mean everyone, should listen to it. 

All too often I find that people, especially in the Christian community, will tell you to "be happy" or "be thankful" but they really don't encourage you to pursue things that make you genuinely happy. In fact, in my case, they often discouraged it, leaving me to abandon things that I loved and wondering why I wasn't happy or couldn't find things to be thankful for. How was I supposed to be thankful, if I threw away everything that God gave me to be thankful for? 

It's okay to feel like you have nothing to be thankful for, but it's not okay to stay this way. If this is you, I encourage you to go back to the things that God has given you to enjoy, even if people think you're an idiot. Believe me, you'll be filled with thanksgiving.

If you need proof that this act lifts your heart up, just go back and read David's story and his Psalms. It's clear that he couldn't care less what people thought of him, but was filled with joy and awe at what his Maker gave him to enjoy. He allowed himself to be carried away in celebration, even at the chagrin of the people around him. 

Over that past year or so, I've found myself diving back into the things that God has gifted me with and just really stopping to appreciate that he gave those things to me to enjoy. I really want to be fully comfortable geeking out like a little kid when I experience them.

Some of these things are my cat. Ice cream. Good food. My stuffed-not-so-stuffed animals that I've had since I was born. My bedroom. Cozy jackets and sweaters. Coffee. Outings with friends and family. Sunsets. Sunrises. A song that makes me feel just so. 

When things like these appear in my life, I allow myself to fully fall in love with and appreciate them. God gave them to me. It would be an insult of the highest order if I threw them away just because someone said it was stupid. 

Look at it like this: Let's say you're a parent and you gave your child a meaningful gift. You give it to them so that you can watch their eyes light up. You want to watch them spend hours delighting in it. Few things bring you more joy than seeing them fall more and more in love with it because you know that, in turn, they are falling more and more in love with you.

But then one day they come home and throw it into a corner, never to touch it again. You're confused. Hurt, even. Why would they do that when you gave it to them with such love because you knew it brought them joy? Because someone at school or at work said it was dumb for them to love it so much. That's why. 

Wouldn't tears spring to your eyes to know that someone, who didn't even know or love your child as much as you do, told your child that it wasn't a good thing to love your gift? The gift you know brings out the best in your child. Wouldn't it pain you?

I kind of think that God feels the same way. He knows us better than anyone else. He gives us gifts that bring out the best in us. And I believe that it hurts him to see us throw them away because someone dared think they knew better than he did. 

So I encourage you to do two things. Go listen to that sermon. Let it soak into your soul. And go embrace the things that God gave you, knowing full well they are from your loving Father who delights in you and knows you better than anyone else. 

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." James 1:17 (ESV)


This was one of the big things I started doing over the last year. It has helped me so much, not only in my gratitude, but also in my overall dealings with my mental health. 

Growing up, I was the worst when it came to keeping a journal. I never could keep at it for very long. Until last year, that is.

The journal below spans from 2013-2018. Half of it was those first five years, with nothing in there from 2017. The second half is from 2018. Big difference, right?

I went from hardly being able to fill up one page, to hardly being able to contain myself to three pages. I feel like one of the main reasons was because I finally was doing things that I felt were meaningful, instead of surviving high school and all its demands. I was filling my time with worthwhile, exciting things that I wanted to remember.

Anyway, there's a few things that I found interesting in my journey with journaling. 

1. Ways to work through issues. On my worst days, where each moment seemed riddled with things going wrong, I've found that journaling helps me work through the problems and come up with solutions. It also helps me find ways to prevent them from happening again. More than that, I've also found that I've become more hopeful for the future, instead of getting weighed down with the problems. I've said more and more often that "tomorrow will look up". 

2. Excitement for the future. On both my good days and bad, I usually make at least one step towards at least one of my goals. Throughout my journaling, I outline what I did and what the next step will be. It not only fills me with excitement for what is to come, but I'm also daily filling out a battle plan for what I need to do next in order to accomplish my goals. I never have to freak out about what comes next because I'm constantly reminding myself of what I need to do. For someone who struggles with anxiety, this is a great help. My brain freaks out enough over nothing, I don't need to add more things that can be prevented by a little writing.

3. Identifying the blessed things in life. In journaling, I have an outlet to fangirl over the things that God has given me each day to enjoy. It might just be that amazing breakfast I made. Or it might be something hilarious that Dustfinger did to make me smile. Or chatting about how cool the sunrise looked that morning. Or whatever comes to mind. I get to have a chance to write it all down so I can go back and remind myself of the good things in life.

4. Identify my Why. Whenever I get stuck wondering why I'm bothering with my edits, or school, or whatever, I just have to flip back a few pages and remember why I'm doing all those things. It encourages me to keep going. That's so great when I hit a bump where I don't want to keep going. I regain my focus and press on.

I encourage you all to start finding a way to incorporate journaling into your life. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. There are tons of ways to journal, something for each style. You could draw pictures. You could do a line journal. You could use those prompt thingys that Pinterest has. Seriously, head over to Pinterest and look up different journaling methods and you're sure to find something that suits you.

Whatever method you use, I am certain you will find yourself geeking out about the things that happen throughout your day, even the little things that seem inconsequential. 

~Get outside~

I mean this both literally and figuratively. 

Literally get outside. Go for a walk. Sit in the grass. Curl up in a chair on the porch and sip a cup of coffee or tea. Bask in the sun. Listen to the birds chatter to each other. Watch your ridiculous dogs chase after each other like hooligans. Let the wind rush through your hair. There are few better ways to surround yourself with things to be grateful for than immersing yourself in God's creation. It is his natural revelation, after all.

And then also figuratively get outside. Get out of your head every once in a while. I'm saying this more to myself than to anyone else. I find myself wrapped up in my own garbage that I often forget to help others through their issues or celebrate their victories. This is something I'm working on. It's disrespectful of me to insist that others take time out of their day to sympathize or rejoice with me if I'm not willing to do the same for them. I want to be the person who is in their corner 100%, without any thought of envy or spite. I don't want to drag down their celebrations. Instead, I want to fill up their joy so much that it flows over to me. And I don't want to address someone's grief with the idea that my pain is somehow worse than theirs. Instead, I want to greet them with open arms, knowing that we aren't alone in our sufferings and pain. That I'm not alone. That we all need each other. That God walks with us through good times and bad. And be filled with gratitude that we have a Lord who doesn't abandon us like so many deities in other religions. Our God goes with us. And that alone is something to be eternally grateful for.

~Move your butt~

Seriously. Just get some exercise in every day. It doesn't matter what kind of exercise you do, as long as you love it and it makes you feel great and empowered. I promise you'll be filled with gratitude for what your body is capable of. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, after all. It's time to appreciate that. 

No matter what you do, try to not get wrapped up in the numbers game. That puts your focus on things that you can only control to a certain degree and in the end will only depress you. Rather be in awe that God enabled our bodies to do such incredible things. Just because you're not the best at something, doesn't mean it's not amazing. 

Now for a little wrap-up:

1. Fill your life with things that make you happy. 

2. If you're not thankful for anything, fill your life with things to be thankful for.

3. Journal. I can't stress this enough, guys. 

4. Get outside.

5. Care for others.

6. Move your butt.

I hope you've found this series helpful. If there's anything you feel should be added, let me know and I'll see if I can write a post about it!

Now onto y'all! What sorts of thing have you incorporated into your life to help you practice gratitude? How did it change your outlook on life? What things are you hoping to start doing to help you further that practice?


  1. Wow, this is soooo good! What an amazing series ;D I LOVE point two ... it's hard to be grateful ... but living a fuller life really helps ;D And I love journaling. It's an amazing thing I believe everyone should do (jk kinda). And I used to hate the outdoors, but have taught myself to appreciate it now ... because, yeah, makes me feel better ;D

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

      It is hard, but it's important. I mean, why shouldn't we fill our lives with things we love to do?

      LOL, I'm not outdoor's biggest fan when it comes to heat, rain, and bugs, but I like just about everything else.

    2. The worst thing is when you have piles of snow drifted higher than yourself ... I can't make myself go out much these days ;0

    3. Thankfully I don't have that issue. But it's pouring here. Good thing, too. I was worried my mud would get dehydrated.

  2. Just being outside really helps me to relax and be in a better mood.

    But hey - we're supposed to be happy and content. With the good and the bad. We're not supposed to make /everything/ bad and put on a happy face. But we're allowed to enjoy the good we are given.

    1. Yeah, I really like having the wind in my hair. Except when it's really strong and messes everything up.

  3. Oof, okay, wow, I guess I really need to get back into the journaling groove again! I’ve stopped for the past three weeks, even though it helps me calm down at night. Tonight, it’s happening!

    I will be bookmarking this series! Great posts!

    1. To be honest, I kind of fell off for a week or two. Still working on getting back on that train. It's totally awesome, though!!


  4. Going outside does wonders. That and being thankful for the small things. I really want to journal now, it sounds like a good idea. :D

    1. Seriously, there's few things better than getting an aesthetic journal and filling it with ramblings. It's so nice!

  5. This series is so good! Being outside always works wonders for me. <3

    1. Thanks!! And yes, it's really lovely to be outside!

  6. I started journaling last fall and it has helped tremedously. It's great to see the high and low points of my life without a lot of the mundane details that my daily positive journal had.

    When I was in college, I used to go an arboretum in order to clear my head. It helped to breathe in the clear air :)

    Such a great post, Sarah!

    1. Yes, it's nice to see all sides of our story, rather than only looking at the "positives". We need to look at life from every angle and learn from it.

      Oh, that sounds so nice!!! I can almost feel the peacefulness right now!


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