I have fallen into the 'I'll be happy when" trap many times. I'll be happy when I have my degree. I'll be happy when I get married. I'll be happy when I have children. I'll be happy when everything works out exactly the way I want it to every day. If we don't feel grateful with what we already have, what makes us think we'll be happy with more? If we can't appreciate the present moment then we'll always be searching for the elusive, perfect tomorrow that never comes.

We can get out of the trap by seeing the blessings in our lives. Starting this Thanksgiving start the gratitude challenge by writing down or articulating out loud three new reasons to be grateful each day for the next 30 days. Here are eight ways to help begin the gratitude challenge.

  1. Focus on what is there instead of what isn't. Seeing only the gaps in our lives block us from gratitude. Too often we think about all the things that we don't have instead of noticing the abundance of gifts in our lives. Or we look at everything that we have as "not enough" instead of recognizing that God is constantly giving us exactly what we need.

  2. See the glass in your hands. It doesn't matter if the glass is half empty or half full. Be grateful that you have a glass and that there is something in it. When life is challenging and today is stormy and dark, we forget yesterday's sunny warmth and the possibility of a bright tomorrow. Don't give up hope. As long as we are alive and holding a glass at all, we can turn things around and fill it up with gratitude for what we have.

  3. Turn inconveniences into lessons. Too often we see people who take up our time as "traffic" and we blame others for slowing us down as we go through the day. Instead we can see others as gifts in our lives and inconveniences can be reframed as lessons for us to refocus on what is really important to us.

  4. Walk outside and look up at the sky. Think about how amazing and beautiful and huge this world really is. With today's technology and fast paced communication, it is all too easy to become "busy" and distracted all day long. When we are caught up in this endless mind clutter, it is impossible for us to focus on much of anything. Take a moment. Watch the sunrise. Gaze at the stars. Contemplate what God creates each day.

  5. Live in the present moment. Thinking constantly about the future and what could go wrong makes today feel irrelevant to us. Dwelling on the past and obsessing about yesterday's regrets also blocks us from seeing the beauty of the moment. Bringing ourselves back to "now" opens our eyes to blessings we might otherwise overlook.

  6. See what you do as an opportunity, not a burden. Don't fall into the obligation drain. Treating life as a series of "shoulds" can rapidly take away our joy in what we do. Instead we can see our jobs and our roles as precious opportunities and privileges that we choose to fulfill.

  7. Appreciate life’s simple pleasures. Our lives are filled with abundant blessings. Appreciate even the 'ordinary' blessings of a regular day like a roof over our heads, running water, food and clothing.

  8. Recognize the Source. Thank God every day for everything that He gives us. We can then go on to recognize the people who give to us and the kindness that spirals through our lives throughout the day.

I used to think that happy people were grateful, but I’ve come to realize that grateful people are happy. See the blessings. Recognize their source. Take on the gratitude challenge today.