In Canada, we just celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday by gathering with family and friends, eating huge turkey dinners and taking in a baseball or football game.
But even a national holiday designed to give us time to celebrate the harvest and all the blessings of the year, doesn’t guarantee that we do it, does it?
And what about the other days of the year? Is thankfulness and gratitude only mandatory on the second Monday in October?
When was the last time you paused, and took time to acknowledge the people and things you are thankful for?
Not surprisingly, there is plenty of research to suggest that gratitude has many benefits when it’s a regular part of our lives.
A Huffington Post article highlights 10 benefits of gratitude that include better grades, better sleep and better relationships.
Gratitude has the ability to impact so many areas of our lives. It can improve our mental health by reducing stress or more accurately, reduce the effects of stress.
Gratitude also improves our physical health. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in “Personality and Individual Differences”. It’s no surprise then, that grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.
Journalling has long been a well accepted practice for a variety of things but is now gratitude has become a focused benefit of journalling. Just do a Google search on “gratitude journals” and you’ll see just how popular the practice has become.
When we’re grateful, we’re not complaining.
When we’re grateful we’re not focused on ourselves.
When we’re grateful we’re not bitter.
When we’re grateful we have a better outlook on life in general.
The benefits of gratitude shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s just good for us.
Gratitude is a spiritual thing to do too.
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
God wants us to learn to be thankful for all the gifts He has given us. It is in our best interest to be reminded that everything we have is a gift from Him. Without gratefulness, we become arrogant and self-centered; we begin to believe that we have achieved everything on our own. Thankfulness keeps our hearts in right relationship to the Giver of all good gifts.
Giving thanks also reminds us of how much we do have. I think it’s easy for many of us to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we already do have. By giving thanks we are reminded of that. When we focus on blessings rather than wants, we are happier.
When we start thanking God for the things we usually take for granted, our perspective changes. We realize that we could not even exist without the merciful blessings of God.
We can have thankful hearts toward God even when we do not feel thankful for the circumstances we find ourselves in. We can grieve and still be thankful. We can hurt and still be thankful. Giving thanks to God keeps our hearts in right relationship with Him and saves us from a variety of harmful emotions and attitudes that can rob us of the peace God wants us to experience.
Okay, let’s see. Gratitude can lead to better physical and mental health, it can improve our relationships, it can help us avoid greed, complaining and self-centeredness. Gratitude sounds like a good idea.
So how can we gratitude into practice and start to reap it’s benefits? Let me suggest 3.
- Pray with gratitude. Maybe, prayer isn’t a normal part of your day. Even if it isn’t, I encourage you to start. Simply tell God what you are thankful for. Don’t make prayer all about what you want from God…start with what you’re grateful you already have.
- Write with gratitude. A journal is a great practice. Why not start every day by writing “5 Things” you are grateful for.
- Express gratitude. Saying please and thank you are not simply basic manners but hallmarks of gratitude. When was the last time you thanked someone for something they did, or said. When was the last time you let someone know how special they are to you and why? When was the last time you thanked someone for making a significant difference in your life…a family member…a friend…a mentor…a co-worker, boss or employee. The opportunities never end.
So, when was the last time you paused, and took time to acknowledge the people and things you are thankful for?
Trust me you’ll feel better…honest.
What are you grateful for? What is one thing you can do to express your gratitude this week.
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