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Cultivating an attitude of consistent gratitude is difficult. We have to be proactive about it, or else our thinking can slide toward negativity and complaining.

I was aware of this slide in my own life this week. I recently moved into a new apartment. One of the nice amenities of the new place is they do garbage pickup Sunday through Thursday. All I have to do is put my garbage can outside my door, and someone comes around and picks up my garbage. It’s really convenient.

On Friday and Saturday, however, there’s no garbage pickup. And this past weekend, my garbage can was full. I found myself grumbling and complaining. “This is so inconvenient!” I said to myself.

Then I stopped.

I was amazed at how quickly I moved toward thinking the universe owed me something I only knew existed one week ago. In a flash, I shifted from being grateful for the garbage pickup to complaining about the limitations of the service.

I know this is a silly example, but I think the underlying point is important for our lives. We need to consistently cultivate gratitude as a habit of mind. Our natural tendency is to do the opposite—grumble and complain.

Here’s one quick and easy exercise I have tried to help me shift my attitude toward gratitude. At night before I go to bed, I try to think about 3 things I am grateful for about my day. They can be big things or little things. But I try to identify them, and meditate on them for a few minutes. It’s a little thing, but it helps me orient my mind toward being grateful.

Discussion: How are you doing at being grateful for the things in your life? Do you slide quickly into grumbling and complaining? Try the simple gratitude exercise and see if your attitude shifts.

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