Does the holiday season feel different? Squelched? Lonely? Busy? A bit out of the ordinary?…
Grateful: a feeling or showing thanks
Thanksgiving is the time of year that we reflect upon how and why gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness is a positive to cultivate in your life and in your home.
In my book, Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Study Experience, we encourage a freeze on grumbling, and encourage the choice to rejoice:
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing..” (Phil 2:14)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4)
So, what are five top benefits of gratitude? (And how can we cultivate an attitude of gratitude?)
- Improves Physical Health: According to Sue Mosebar, Editor of Bio-Trust, grateful people are more likely to have a routine of better self-care: They sleep more, exercise regularly, see their doctors routinely. Those who are grateful report fewer negative physical symptoms like coughing, dizziness, gastrointestinal problems (including stomachaches), headaches, nausea, respiratory infections, runny noses, sleeping disturbances, or even pain. In addition, studies show that those who keep a gratitude journal reported improved overall health, including a reduction of headaches, stomach pain, blood pressure, and congestion, along with clearer skin. The Neuroscience of Gratitude concurs and adds that gratitude can also boost your immunity, lower pain, improve cardiac strength and lower your blood pressure. Robert Emmons, a well-known mental health specialist, conducted several studies on stress and health which indicated that gratitude effectively releases stress hormones… [and a] daily gratitude practice …is a natural stress detox for the mind and body.”
- Improves Mood and Mental Health: In a blog by Harvard Medical School, Gratitude was linked with a positive boost in emotional wellness. “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, … deal with adversity…” The Neuroscience of Gratitude adds that “When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside. By consciously practicing gratitude everyday, we can help these neural pathways to strengthen themselves and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves…. [in addition] gratitude significantly reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety”
- Improves Relationships: Harvard Medical School also sees a positive link between gratitude and healthy relationships: “…a study of couples found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.” And a commonsense study showed, “Managers who remember to say, “thank you” to people who work for them may find that those employees feel motivated to work harder.” Health Psych echoes gratitude as a key to stronger relationships, “It’s intuitive to think that gratitude makes the recipient feel better, but research has shown that gratitude does more than this: it actually improves the relationship for both parties. …Feeling grateful helps us to identify people who are responsive to our needs, and helps to bring us closer [and more committed] to them.”
- Improves Success : A Prialto blog explains that The American Psychological Association reports that “gratitude enhances psychological resilience making it easier to cope with and quickly bounce back from stressors.” And if you add up the above benefits, being grateful will keep you healthy, focused, and happy in your relationships thus buying you more time for working. And if you are grateful for your work, appreciative for your career, and thankful for your giftedness, then you will look forward to time using you skills and talents. (For more tips on Productivity: Get It Done, Girl: Maximize Your Moments Action Planner and The Marriage Meet Ups: A 52 Week Devotional Planner for Couples that Want More Passion, Purpose and Productivity)
- Improves Spiritual Life: Let’s look at some verses about thankfulness and gratitude to see some positive outcomes:
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34
Gratitude reminds that God’s love is enduring.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15
Gratitude helps God’s peace reign in your heart.
“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Corinthians 1:4
Gratitude reminds us of God’s grace.
“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:4-5
Gratitude reminds that everything God created is good.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Gratitude helps bring us joy and walk in God’s will.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Gratitude produces supernatural peace.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” Psalm 28:7
Gratitude is the result of trusting God and gives us the willingness to ask for God’s help.
How to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
It is a choice to be thankful, grateful, and appreciative: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and perform your vows to the Most High.” Psalm 50:14
- Count Your Many Blessings. I designed a bullet journal two-page spread called Radiant Joy that is a sunset with amply rays to write down answers to prayer and God-moments each day. You can keep on your refrigerator, in your Bible, on your desk or in your planner. (Download Infections Joy eBook to get the Radiant Joy handout)
- Pen a Gratitude Journal. Here are a few excellent options: Good Days Begin with Gratitude , In Everything Give Thanks 3 Year Journal. Gratitude Journal
- Read a Gratitude Devotional. Check these out: Choose Gratitude; Grateful, Thankful, Blessed; Grace and Gratitude for Every Day Life; , One Thousand Gifts, Giving thanks for a Perfectly Imperfect Life .
- Take a daily gratitude walk. We take a sunset stroll and pray and thank God each evening.
- Worship: Turn on Christian music and sign along or get up and do a happy dance!
- Wind down: To gentle music, stretch your body while you “thank-through” your day or as you close your eyes to sleep, recount your day and express thanks to God.
- Create! Make a piece of art or draw in your Bible Art Bible to capture who and what you are grateful and thankful for. Try “Choose Joy: Coloring book of Gratitude,
- Dinner Delight: As a family, each evening over dinner, we asked our family, “Who got a postcard of God’s Goodness? Who saw God’s fingerprints of love?”
- Fill up a thankful jar: Keep slips of paper near a “thankful jar” and ask all the family to record answers to prayer, unanticipated moments of God’s goodness, praises and drop these into the jar. Choose a day or evening to read these aloud as a family (Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, etc.)
- Help Others! Look around for others who need basics. Offer to bring a meal to a single mom, a college student, an immigrant family. Team with a homeless shelter, a Domestic Violence Shelter or various non-profits that specialize in helping people get a restart like The Salvation Army. Nothing helps you appreciate the little you have when you realize that even you can give to help another.
- Thanksgiving Day options:
- Leaf Wreath: As a family, gather leaves and as you make a circle around a candle on your table, share things for which you are thankful. Or Cu out paper leaves and have each person write things they are grateful for on the leaves then glue together and hang on the front door or inside the front door.
- Candy Corn Count: Place a cup of candy corns at each place and see if your guests can name one blessing per corn (then they can eat them!) Seems your grandmother might have been right when she sang the old hymn, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one.”
- Photo Recall: Pull out your smartphone and review the photos and name the things you are thankful happened n your life, or share around the table, each showing a photo of his or her favorite memory.
- Turkey Tag: With children, play a form of freeze tag where everyone playing can only be unfrozen when they can list off a blessing, a praise or something he or she is thankful for.
- Bless You: Place a candle on each plate and have the person on the right light the candle of the person next to him or her and say why he or she is thankful for him or her. This can also be expanded to each person also names one thing they are thankful for in his or her own life, then lights the candle of the one next to him or her.
- Kid Lit! Read a children’s picture book on thankfulness or Thanksgiving. (Find some good ones on com)
- Serve a meal: Volunteer to serve meals to homeless or invite others to join your table who might be alone for the holiday. Or do a fun run and raise money to feed the homeless.
How will you and your family cultivate an attitude of gratitude this Thanksgiving season?
Pam and Bill Farrel have much to be thankful for: 42 happy years of marriage, 3 godly sons and grace-filled daughter in laws, plus 5 grands. They have written 55 books, and make their home on a live aboard boat.