Oxford defines gratitude as, “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”. So, why should we practice gratitude? If we are Christ-followers, we are commanded to give thanks. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Why does Paul give us this command? Is it to make God feel better, to stroke His ego, to build Him up, to repay Him for what He’s done for us? Not so. Like all of the commands, our loving Father has given us, the command to practice gratitude is for our ultimate benefit and well-being. We should praise Him for all of our blessings and the amazing ways He shows His love for us out of our love for Him. Beyond that, however, practicing gratitude has proven scientific benefits.
Gratitude can improve our physical health.
People who regularly acknowledge things they are grateful for wake up with fewer aches and pains. They have a higher quality of sleep and more restful sleep. They exercise more often and make healthier choices for their physical bodies. They also are more likely to see a physician for their regular check-ups, which contributes to their long-term health.
Gratitude can improve our psychological health.
Being grateful reduces such negative emotions as resentment, frustration, envy, and regret. A leading gratitude researcher named Robert Emmons, has done multiple studies on how gratitude affects well-being. His research shows that gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression. When we focus more on what we have, and less on what we don’t have, we feel more fulfilled.
Gratitude has led to increased mental strength.
Researchers have shown that being grateful not only reduces stress but can help people overcome trauma. People who have endured horrible situations and still find ways to be grateful for the little things have lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. Those who have a continued habit of gratitude show more resilience after trauma. They are able to experience healing.
Gratitude leads to healthier relationships.
Showing gratitude to the people in our lives helps us to appreciate them more. It helps them know that we recognize what they do for us and shows them that we see and value them. In new relationships, just saying thank you can lead a person to seek a continued relationship, which, in turn, can lead to greater opportunities. It is more pleasant to be around people who are happy and content, than those who are unhappy and complaining. Be the type of person others want to be around. You will draw others to complain less and show gratitude more.
People practice gratitude in a variety of ways.
If this is not yet a habit for you, here are some ideas to get you started.
Write in a journal specifically for gratitude. Write a couple of things in the morning to start your day. Write a few things at night before you sleep, as a way to calm your mind and set yourself up for a good night’s sleep. Refer back to the things you’re grateful for when you’re feeling unhappy, overwhelmed, or anxious. If you’re more of a visual person, take pictures of the things for which you are grateful, a beautiful sunset, good food, a friend or family member. Call, or text, someone to tell them you are grateful for them, or something they have done for you. Instead of complaining about a situation, see if there is any part of it for which you can be thankful. And always, in all circumstances, give thanks to God. In being obedient to this command, He gives you all of the proven benefits of having a spirit of gratitude.
Simply put: gratitude makes us happier and healthier!
How will you practice gratitude today?