Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation. For some it is a way of life. Unfortunately, many of us do not live that way. However I’m told that approach toward life can be acquired through intentional cultivation. Why would anyone want to do that? I believe gratitude builds spiritual strength and enhances one’s personal well-being. It can contribute to a healthy mind, body and spirit.
Many times pursuing a healthy lifestyle does not include pursuing an attitude of gratitude. Our world is sick with sin and evil which in turn generates stress and unhappiness. Gratitude is a therapy for that illness, and it costs nothing.
Not only does it alleviate stress and unhappiness, I’m told it reduces depression. Statistics indicate that over 20 million Americans (adults and adolescents) suffered at least one major episode of depression in 2017. I’m also told that almost 17% of adults use some kind of psychiatric drug. Using medication to relieve feelings of unhappiness and anxiety might seem the right way to go, but the medicines don’t always work very well. By some reports, the medication can even make some bad situations worse. And they certainly don’t address spiritual issues at all.
Following Christ’s teachings means making changes. Changes in your thoughts and behaviors. Developing an attitude of gratitude is an important element of that change. The returns on such an investment can be enormous. As with any lifestyle change, consistency — making it a regular part of your life everyday — is necessary to bring about real, permanent change. Such an attitude can foster a deeper sense of happiness, purpose and peace.
One thing that gratitude does is to recognize and affirm the good that is in the world. Remember when God finished creation, He declared all of it to be very good. With the advent of sin and evil, the good can be a bit harder to find, but it’s there. When you feel or express gratitude, you are recognizing a tiny bit of that good.
Gratitude recognizes that the source of good comes from outside of yourself. Remember that God has endowed you with certain gifts and features. You should express gratefulness for those gifts and determine to use them in your quest for an attitude of gratitude.
- Notice and pay attention to the goodness of other people — Doing that increases your sense of God’s involvement in life and decreases unnecessary anxiety
- Focus on what He has given you rather than what has been withheld
- Do not compare yourself to others. God made you to be the way you are. You may think that other people may have greater advantages, more things or greater blessing. But thinking that way erodes your sense of security. If you’re going to make comparisons, think what your life would be like if you didn’t have something you currently enjoy.
How gratitude benefits your spiritual health
From a spiritual perspective, the practice of gratitude has been shown to:
- Increase happiness, life satisfaction and purpose
- Lower stress
- Enable better handling of stress from negative causes
- Reduce the feeling of depression
Gratitude is good for physical health too
The good effects of gratitude are not limited to your invisible self — your mind and spirit. It affects your visible self (your body) too. According to some studies it —
- Reduces pain and lowers inflammation
- Improves heart rate, which in turn can help lower blood pressure and reduce other cardio-vascular problems as well.
- Lowers risk for heart disease — According to one study, “Efforts to increase gratitude can be a treatment for improving the lives of heart patients”
- Improves sleep (which can have health benefits such as, lowering risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer and much more)
I have found some suggestions on things to do that can help in the pursuit of an attitude of gratitude. They will be included in the next article. In the mean time, please reflect on these Bible verses: Psalm 50:14, Psalm 105:1, Acts 27:35, Colossians 3:12-17, 1 Timothy 1:12-14
Please let me know your thoughts on this subject.
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