Research is showing us that there is a practice that can have a significant positive impact on our general health and specifically on our mental and emotional health. That practice is being grateful.
- According to research from the University of California, gratitude is not just a happy emotion; it can improve one’s health. Individuals who kept a gratitude journal reported fewer physical symptoms of illness than those who did not.
- According to a different study done in 2012, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people.
- Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kind, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky.
- Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.
The psalmist said, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord,” and now we know that good includes good for our well-being. Our God asks us to be a grateful, thankful people, and the benefits of being that kind of people accrue to us. Colossians 2:6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
“Overflowing with thankfulness.” How many of us feel like we are overflowing with thankfulness? So many people live without much thankfulness. Yet if we have life, we have much for which to be thankful. And how much more so for the follower of Jesus Christ? Even the difficult circumstances through which we transit are opportunities for our God to shower us in grace and mercy, and to sanctifying us by His Holy Spirit. Our God will intervene in our difficult circumstances in one of two ways – either He will save us from difficulty, or He will save us through difficulty. The most effective processes for change in us will arise not out of avoiding trouble, but by going through it under the Holy Spirit’s control. In every circumstance He is at work to defeat our selfish bent, to make us more holy. Even our most difficult situations, which is why James writes that we should “consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials.” Every circumstance can work for the good in us, and for this we can truly be thankful in the hard times and in the easy times. An attitude of gratitude in every circumstance is the hallmark of a strong, sincere faith in our God.
So how do we build more of an attitude of gratitude into our thinking and living? We must first understand that often our attitude will follow our practice. In other words, we must begin with the practice and discipline of being thankful in every situation, whether the situation is perceived as good or bad. As we begin to speak thankfully about our situations, we will find it easier to think thankfully regarding them. As we speak and think in this way, it is more likely that we will experience an attitude of gratitude. When we offer to our God the sacrifice of thankful speech, He meets us with a more thankful spirit and fashions us into a more thankful people.
We all have so much for which to be thankful, every day. We swim in a sea of His mercy and compassionate supply. Even in difficulty or severe trial, we are being shaped into more of His likeness, and developing greater perseverance and maturity. Whether times are good or difficult, we can rejoice and live out an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most common responses commanded in the scriptures. It turns out that that command is meant to produce not only a right attitude of gratitude in us, but it is good for us as well. So, in everything give thanks, today and every day.