The science of gratitude is fascinating to me. Studies from Harvard, Barna Research Group, Inc. Magazine, Cal Berkeley and plenty more have proven that gratitude is more than being content or settling for what little you have. Paul, the author of much of the New Testament said that “he had learned to be content with little or with much.” That’s pretty strong as we still use his life’s journey as a model for us individually, but also as a church, at large.
Here a a few benefits and results of your attitude of gratitude:
The Physical Benefits include Stronger immune systems, less suffering from aches and pains, lower blood pressure, exercise more and take better care of their health, sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking.
The Psychological benefits include: Higher levels of positive emotions, like more alert, alive, and awake. more joy and pleasure.”More optimism and happiness.”
The Social benefits include: A more helpful, generous, and compassionate you. A more forgiving, less lonely and more outgoing, friendly you.
The social benefits are especially significant here because, after all, gratitude is a social emotion. It is a relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.
This is the very heart of gratitude, which has two components. First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life. Gratitude will cause you to know that what you have is enough. A biblical view of gratitude allows us to hear the echos of Paul’s statement that he had learned to be content with little or much. It’s fascinating to me that right after those words, he offered these words; “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.’
The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We recognize the source of this goodness as being outside of ourselves. It didn’t stem from anything we necessarily did ourselves in which we might take pride. True gratitude involves a humble dependence on God, His church and His promises.
We acknowledge that the Divine has given us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives. But be careful here. The only good we offer this world is Jesus Himself. We are not inherently good. As a matter of fact we don’t even know how evil our hearts are. So to being grateful requires our recognition from whom all our blessings flow. Gratitude has been proven scientifically to be a massive transformative attitude in our lives. When you marry the science of gratitude to the person and power of the Divine in our lives, we should be catapulted to gratitude with every breath we draw. They are having a blessing for which we should be grateful
Great Chuck, but what good is gratitude? What’s really behind our research results? True gratitude will have these transformative effects on our lives.
1. Gratitude allows us to celebrate the present. It magnifies positive emotions. This is true in finances, relationships and anything worth striving for.
Research on emotion shows that positive emotions wear off quickly. Our emotional systems like newness. They like novelty. They like change. We adapt to positive life circumstances so that before too long, the new car, the new spouse, the new house—they don’t feel so new and exciting anymore.
2. Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it; we’re less likely to take it for granted. (think parenting, finances, debt, divorce, anger and so many more).
3. Gratitude allows us to participate more in the life God has blessed us with. We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life. Instead of adapting to goodness, we celebrate goodness. We spend so much time watching things—movies, computer screens, sports—but with gratitude we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators.
4. Gratitude blocks sinful, toxic, negative emotions, such as envy, resentment and regret. Emotions that can destroy our happiness. There’s even recent evidence, including a 2008 study by psychologist Alex Wood in the Journal of Research in Personality, showing that gratitude can reduce the frequency and duration of episodes of depression.
This makes sense: You cannot feel envious, angry or intitled and be grateful at the same time. They’re incompatible feelings. If you’re grateful, you can’t resent someone for having something that you don’t. Those are very different ways of relating to the world, and sure enough, research has proven that people who have high levels of gratitude have low levels of resentment and envy.
Grateful people are more stress resistant. There’s a number of studies showing that in the face of serious trauma, adversity, and suffering, if people have a grateful disposition, they’ll recover far more quickly. Gratitude gives folks a perspective from which they can interpret negative life events and help them guard against post-traumatic stress and lasting anxiety.
Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth. I think that’s because when you’re grateful, you have the sense that someone else is looking out for you—someone else has provided for your well-being, or you notice a network of relationships, past and present, of people who are responsible for helping you get to where you are right now. The ultimate example of this is found in 121st Psalm. God makes some bold promises, and has/is keeping them all.
There are some challenges to gratitude. Just because gratitude is good, it doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Practicing gratitude can be at odds with some deeply ingrained habits, religions, dogmas and orthodoxies.
Here are three ways to take full advantage of the benefits of being grateful.
- When you are grateful for what you have, not only will it be enough, but it will give the Divine more reason to trust you with more.
- Gratitude, for many of us is a learned skill. You and your family can make a covenant of gratitude that can stomp out ungrateful hearts like a cowboy boot stomping out a cigarette butt outside of Waffle House.
- We need a daily or even hourly reminder to train our heart, mind, and soul to rush toward gratitude. I use the 5 minute journal, but it could be as simple as speaking out loud with your spouse and/or kids what you and they are grateful for everyday.
Try a cup of gratitude a few times each day and the ignorance of envy, pettiness, bigotry and anger will go to the back of the line , well behind your goals, service, giving, relationships and families.
Be Grateful Today,