Think to Thank
“I wish I were happier.” Most of us have had that thought at some point. But how do we go about being happier? President Thomas S. Monson teaches us how to increase our happiness wherever we are in life with a simple yet effective formula:
“Think to thank. In these three words you have the finest capsule course for a happy marriage, the formula for enduring friendships, and a pattern for personal happiness” (BYU Commencement address, Apr. 26, 2001).
So when do we “think to thank”?
We can think to thank the people we love every day.
We can think to thank in the middle of the journey, not just at the end.
We can think to thank God in all things—even in our trials.
As we think to thank at these times and more, we will see the blessings of gratitude grow in our lives.
We’re busy people. There are mouths to feed, houses to clean, homework to do, and the thousand other material tasks that make up daily living. However, in the middle of all this we can remember what is truly important—the people around us. President Monson taught: “We often take for granted the very people who most deserve our gratitude. Let us not wait until it is too late for us to express that gratitude” (“The Divine Gift of Gratitude,” Oct. 2010 general conference). It’s easy to think to thank the people we love after they are gone, but the rewards are much greater when we take the time now, in our day-to-day lives, to thank them. Our relationships grow and thrive when nurtured by frequent expressions of gratitude.
Sometimes we tell ourselves that we’ll take the time to be grateful when the journey is over and the blessings are here—when we finally get married, buy the house, or have that dream job we were hoping for. However, President Monson taught, “Regardless of our circumstances, each of us has much for which to be grateful if we will but pause and contemplate our blessings” (“The Divine Gift of Gratitude”). We can pause and think to thank God even in the middle of our journey.
In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi was commanded by God to leave Jerusalem before the city was destroyed. Leaving his gold and silver, extended family, friends, livelihood, and stable life behind, Lehi traveled three days with his family and provisions into the wilderness.
After pitching their tents, Lehi “built an altar of stones, and made an offering unto the Lord, and gave thanks” (1 Nephi 2:7).
From the world’s standpoint, this does not look like a time to be grateful. They are out in the wilderness, and there’s little evidence that they know anything about where they’re going. They have left everything behind. The future is uncertain. And yet Lehi stops and thinks to thank God. He recognizes God’s guidance in bringing them there and knows that when God is involved, the journey may be difficult, but there are always good things to come, and that is something he can be grateful for now.
In the middle of our life journeys, to-do lists, or even our favorite pop song playing in our headphones, we can follow Lehi’s example—pause, and think to thank God for His goodness to us and His guidance in our lives.
Everyone experiences times when giving thanks seems particularly difficult. The death of a loved one, divorce, natural disasters, chronic illness, and other situations can leave us heartbroken, exhausted, and a whole range of other emotions that we don’t associate with being grateful. However, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught that in these times, thinking to thank can lift our spirits and broaden our perspective. He said:
“We can choose to be grateful, no matter what. …
“Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges. …
“True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will” (“Grateful in Any Circumstances,” Apr. 2014 general conference).
Gratitude in our difficult circumstances does not make the hard times go away. It doesn’t mean that we have to get through our difficulties by the force of our own will or try to fix situations like deep grief or mental illness by “just being more grateful.” It simply means that we look to Christ. By expressing our gratitude, we show that we “know in whom [we] have trusted” (2 Nephi 4:19) and acknowledge that it is through Jesus’s grace and enabling power that we can endure our trials and that He can make beautiful things grow from our most difficult experiences. Our gratitude in these times is an expression of our faith and hope in Him. It gives us the strength to endure our trials in a more Christlike way.
“Thinking to thank” is something most of us have to practice, but God will bless us even for our imperfect efforts to “live in thanksgiving daily” (Alma 34:38). President Uchtdorf taught: “Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes!” (“Grateful in Any Circumstances"). President Monson also taught, “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love” (“The Divine Gift of Gratitude”).
Broadened perspective. Clearer vision. Empathy. The doors of heaven unlocked and a feeling of God’s love in our hearts. Strength in our trials and hope in Christ. Thinking to thank God brings us all these things, draws us closer to those we love, and makes us more like the Savior.