A Secret to Forming the Habit of Giving Thanks

For years I’ve obsessively cracked my knuckles. I hate the habit. I’ve tried everything to stop—from paying my kids a certain amount for each time (which they loved) to popping my wrists with rubber bands to hypnosis via audio recording. Nothing worked. 

A while back I learned a shortcut to habit change. Every habit has a cue or prompt that leads to the behavior. When trying to stop a habit, instead of trying to quit cold turkey, which rarely works, simply retain the existing cue and insert a new habit in place of the old one.

I realized my need to give thanks to God more often. So I replaced my knuckle-cracking habit with giving thanks. It worked! Every time I start yanking on my fingers, I thank God for one blessing. Since I am tempted to crack my knuckles literally all day long, I now give thanks constantly. 

After a while, I had to get creative to think of new blessings. Sometimes I feel like a little kid who thanks God for everything in eyesight: the bed covers, the wall, the carpet, the cat. In all seriousness, praying this way has helped me notice blessings I normally overlook. Just now, while writing this article, I thanked God for my shoes. Then for Heaven. Whatever blessing pops in my head, physical or spiritual, I give thanks for it. 

Paul wrote, “…pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:17-18). Do you give thanks without ceasing? If not, simply identify a habit you do all the time that you’d like to stop or cut back, then replace it with thanksgiving. 

…identify a habit you do all the time that you’d like to stop or cut back, then replace it with thanksgiving.

Maybe that habit is complaining. Or criticizing your spouse. Or drinking coffee. Or checking your phone every two minutes. 

This approach kills two birds with one stone. You end a bad, unhealthy, or sinful habit and begin a godly habit that leads to spiritual growth.

I’m amazed at how well it works. After years of failed attempts to stop cracking my knuckles, I’m well on my way to kicking the habit only a few short weeks. For years I’ve been on a thanksgiving rollercoaster—with peaks of intense gratitude followed by valleys of forgetfulness. Not any more! 

Will you a commit to giving thanks in everything? You can do it! It’s a habit well worth the effort. 

Published by

Adam Willingham

I'm a regular guy and a Christian who happens to preach full-time. I'm also a husband and a father of three. And a martial artist.

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