It’s the season of thankfulness! Gratitude. Appreciation. Thank you, God, for . . . you fill in the sentence.
Some of you are naturally upbeat. Gratitude exudes from every pore and you can’t help but look at the sunny side of things. Others of you, well, let’s just say that doesn’t describe you.
For the past few years, November has been a time when social media is filled with daily posts of blessings. We all know it should be a lifestyle, but it seems that the month of Thanksgiving is a great time to focus our minds toward all that we have.
Does it seem to you that most of those who participate start off okay, but then begin to drift away? Do you start reading these posts then find yourself scrolling past them? Why do we do this? Why is thankfulness a battle for so many of us? And does it provide any real benefit that makes it worth fighting for?
The Blessings of Thankfulness
If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself. ~Tecumseh, American Shawnee warrior and chief
In 2015, Amy Morin did an article for Psychology Today highlighting the “scientifically proven benefits” of gratitude. Now, I can’t verify for you what methods were used to prove these statements or even how dramatic the benefit was. Still, her points are interesting to consider.
1. “Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.”
Ms. Morin wrote that a 2014 study found, “Not only does saying ‘thank you’ constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends.” Why? Because we want to continue a relationship with those who are polite.
2. “Gratitude improves physical health.”
It didn’t surprise me when Ms. Morin wrote that a 2012 study reported that “grateful people experience fewer aches and pains.” What I found interesting, however, is this tidbit: “Grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups.”
3. “Gratitude improves psychological health.”
For this point, she relies on Robert Emmons, a Professor of Psychology and a researcher in personality and emotion psychology. His studies prove repeatedly “that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.” How about that for a financially-friendly treatment plan?
4. “Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.”
According to Ms. Morin, a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky showed that “study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.”
[An interesting side note. Reading fiction does this too, a reason to express thankfulness for authors!]
5. “Grateful people sleep better.”
Who likes to sleep? A 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being showed that writing grateful sentiments for fifteen minutes a day led to better quality and longer sleep. Time to pull out that thankfulness journal!
6. “Gratitude improves self-esteem.”
Several studies report this finding, including one in 2014 that looked at athletes and was printed in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. Ms. Morin writes, “Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs—a major factor in reduced self-esteem—grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.”
7. “Gratitude increases mental strength.”
Why do some people who go through trauma struggle while others heal and thrive? “A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11.”
I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on me. ~Gabby Douglas, American gymnast
I’m not trying to say that thankfulness is the magic pill that will make everything better. However, the studies referenced above make some powerful points. Rather than debate the legitimacy of the results or the effectiveness of the treatment plans, why don’t we join in the holiday and practice gratitude?
Do we really have that much to lose? At least, that isn’t worth losing.
Thanksgiving is celebrated in two of my fiction books. Have you read either one?
She avoids relationships, but this family challenges her view of God.
For years, Amber traipsed around the Northwest avoiding the skeletons in her closet. Job-hopping every few weeks, she refuses to let anyone get close to her, protecting herself from the pain that relationships bring. As winter plants itself firmly across the Rockies, though, she decides to take a chance on a job at a logging company with a family different from any she’s ever known.
But is this family genuine?
Watching the family interact creates more questions than answers for Amber. The adults love to spend time with each other and dote on the little ones. Even more mysterious, the parents treat the married spouses like their own children and carefully keep watch on employees and friends.
Feeling like she’s entered the happily-ever-after written at the end of fairytales, Amber watches for cracks in the façade. Surely as the days pass, the play-acting will cease and the real family will emerge.
Or could she be wrong? Could this family hold the key to what she’s seeking?
Inspector Cassandra McCarthy never thought she’d be raising her two daughters alone, but her husband’s unexpected death forced her to find a career. Now working beside a retired Special Operations soldier and veteran fireman, she serves her small North Carolina town, protecting them from hazards they don’t understand. She loves what she does and trusts God to provide—until a hurricane and a series of unexplained fires hit too close to home.
What will it cost Cassandra to protect the citizens of Silver Heights?
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