Earlier this week, I wrote about the connection between gratitude and happiness. Want to be happy? Express thanks—and happiness will follow. But there’s more to gratitude than just a a good release of endorphins. Studies are showing a variety of health benefits tied to gratitude.
- Better sleep
- Better regulation of stress
- Better regulation of hormones
- Decrease in depression and anxiety
- Improved relationships
- Reduced physical pains
Any of those benefits have your attention yet?
This is not some mental mind-game of pretending everything is great. We can be thankful right in the middle of difficulties. By focusing on what we are thankful for instead of just focusing on the massive pile of paperwork or the flooded basement, we can lessen the effect of those things that are pulling us down.
Researchers noted that developing an attitude of thankfulness and maintaining it over several weeks has profound, long-lasting neural effects. British psychologist Christian Jarrett wrote: “the more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to this mind-set…. a sort of gratitude ‘muscle’ that can be exercised and strengthened.” [Source]
But who are we thankful to? Just a vague “I’m thankful for my family … the sunshine … little baby ducks” is just that: it’s vague. I question whether a nebulous thankful attitude is enough. Gratitude should be directed to—and spoken to—those who deserve our thanks. Did you wife make an incredible piece of toast for you? Thank her!
And the same goes for God! All we have is from His hands, so thank Him. And because He is the sovereign, all-powerful Lord of the universe, we can even thank Him on the hard days. Because He has been good and faithful to me on the good days, I can trust His goodness and faithfulness on the not-so-good days.
One last thing caught my attention from the research on gratitude. When we are grateful, it is contagious. Others pick up on our attitude. We’ve set an example that others pick up and follow.
Let me suggest a “game” to do as you gather with others for Thanksgiving. First, read Psalm 136 and notice it’s poetic pattern. It has a call-and response element in which the first part of each verse expresses something for which the psalmist is thankful; it is followed by “His faithful love endures forever” (CSB). I love this psalm in which each element for which the psalmist is thankful is tied to His love for us.
So, here’s what I want you to do as you gather with others. Create your own version of Psalm 136. Go around the table and let each person express one specific thing for which they are thankful to God. And with each statement, everyone else at the table says, “His faithful love endures forever.” Hey, go all out and go around the table a second time … a third time … just stop before the green bean casserole gets cold.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. ‘His faithful love endures forever’” (Ps. 136:1).
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