The Amazing Benefits of Gratitude
This world is a pretty messed-up place. There is so much to be depressed about. The default is to be grouchy and fault-finding. The result is depression and disease. God calls us as His followers to be different. Paul says, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” [Col 3:15 NLT, my emphasis] To be “always thankful” refers to an attitude, a mindset or approach to everyday life. Paul also mentions two other practices that should be practiced. He says, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” [1 Thess 5:16 NLT, my emphasis]
What happens when a person experiences gratitude? Michael Craig Miller, MD, from the Harvard Medical School, describes this experience as follows:
“Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what a person receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, they usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves— whether to other people, nature or a higher power.”
Gratitude – what an amazing antidote for selfcentered narcissism. As Christians we believe that the source of that goodness lies totally outside of ourselves, as only God is good. He is the One who generously overwhelms us with a sense of wellbeing and goodness when we choose to be grateful.
I have an idea that God had a good reason why He wanted His children to be thankful. Researchers indicate that an attitude of gratitude can have amazing health benefits. It boosts mental, physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health. Students’ grades improve, you sleep better, relationships and marriages improve, hyper-tension lessens and cardio health improves, the risk of burn-out lowers, contentment increases, immunity builds in the body to resist disease, ability to cope with loss and grief improves, aggression lessens and you become more helpful and caring.
So, how can I become more grateful? Here are a few guidelines that I have found helpful to help you through your day.
- CHOOSE to be grateful. All behavioral change starts with a choice. I find it helpful to make this choice during my devotional prayer time at the start of each day.
- During the day, focus on your SENSES, what you smell, hear, touch, see, and taste. Instead of going through the motions of doing your routine chores of every day, stop and become aware of what your senses report to you. It’s a way of exchanging quantity for quality, by stopping to smell the roses.
- At the end of each day, look back and count your BLESSINGS. I did not fall today or have a car accident. I am not ill or destitute. If you are blessed to be more disciplined than I am, then keep a journal and write down what God has done for you that day. Dr. Emmons, one of the leading researchers on the healing qualities of gratitude, says, “If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep.”
Other ideas that may be helpful are to send thankyou notes to people, watch your language, use positive words, avoid judgmental or critical comparisons with others, have a gratitude partner, put sticky notes up as visual reminders, do something nice for someone less fortunate than you are (you have to be exposed to the bad, in order to know how good you have it), pray and meditate on the Word.
I want to wish you all a happy family time during the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays. As a New York Times columnist said, “Hey, it could always be worse. When your relatives force you to look at photos on their phones, be thankful they no longer have access to a slide projector. When your aunt expounds on politics, rejoice inwardly that she does not hold elected office.”
And finally, “. . . whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” [Col 3:17 NLT, my emphasis]