In an article published in Psychology Today on “The Benefits of Being Thankful,” Clay Routledge, Ph.D., said he discovered it is personally and socially advantageous to be thankful.
Routledge, an assistant professor of psychology at North Dakota State University, said across three experiments, researchers Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough found evidence that the experience of gratitude leads to positive psychological, physical and social outcomes.
“In general, participants who were asked to think about what they were grateful for, compared to control condition participants, experienced greater levels of optimism, positive mood, and feelings of belongingness over the period of the study,” Routledge said.
“That is, experiencing gratitude promoted psychological well-being. Further, in one study, these participants reported fewer physical illness symptoms and indicated spending more time exercising. This suggests that gratitude may also promote healthy living. Also, these participants were more likely to report helping someone with a personal problem or offering emotional support to others. In other words, gratitude may also motivate pro-social or moral behavior.”
Would it surprise you to know that gratitude is more than an emotion, but has the power to move people to action? As British poet Elizabeth Bartlett said, “I have found that it is not enough for me to be thankful. I have a desire to do something in return. To do thanks. To give thanks. Give things. Give thoughts. Give love. So gratitude becomes the gift, creating a cycle of giving and receiving, the endless waterfall.”
This is in harmony with the inspired wisdom found in the Holy Bible at Colossians 3:15 which tells servants of God to “show yourselves thankful.” — New World Translation.
According to the 2009 article, there are a number of other published studies on the benefits of gratitude. But it concluded by saying, “The take home message is that being grateful is good for you and those around you. So on Thanksgiving, be sure to take a little time to actually be thankful. Also, even though Thanksgiving is the holiday that such reflection is perhaps most likely, based on the research conducted by Emmons and McCullough, it may be a good idea to take a little time each day to be grateful.”
Being grateful “each day” echoes the timeless wisdom found in the Word of God written thousands of years ago. Ephesians 5:20 speaks of, “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” — New International Version.
As God told the ancient Israelites at Psalms 50:23, “Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.” — New Living Translation. Having such an attitude of gratitude would also include being thankful for fellow believers and praying in their behalf.
As the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:15-17, “I, too, have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. For this reason I never stop thanking God for you. I always remember you in my prayers. I pray that the glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Christ better.” — God’s Word Translation.
Such thankful prayers to God not only draw us closer to our heavenly Father, it draws us closer to the entire association of those related to us in the faith and gives us the mental clarity of what is most important in our lives — our relationship with God and our fellow believers.
This is especially important when we hear reports of fellow believers experiencing trials and tribulations from natural disasters, war-torn areas, poverty or persecution. Can we ask God to help them endure with thanksgiving for what they have, and not focus solely on what they have lost?
That captures the spirit of Philippians 4:6-7, where we are told, “Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.” — Common English Bible.
To be sure, each and every one of us has more things to be thankful for than things to complain about. But it takes deliberate effort to count our blessings and focus on the positive more than the negative. It takes a little more effort to act on feelings of gratitude than simply feeling thankful.
As American writer William Ward said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
So if you’re thankful to God each day — tell Him. If you can express your gratitude in word and deed, by all means, do so. Why? Because an attitude of gratitude is a blessing to all, including yourself.
More importantly, by living a life of thanksgiving, you become the blessing, the blessed and the most beautiful manifestation of the image of God, of whom we all should forever and ever be thankful.
*For a copy of The Little White Book of Light featuring more Wright Way columns, visit barnesandnoble.com, booksamillion.com and amazon.com.