As we prepare for the celebration of Thanksgiving, I wanted to take some time to talk about just how good Thankfulness is for you! All of us have problems, stress, issues, you name it. Sometimes those things can breed a tendency to complain about life rather than focus on the things we are thankful for. Here are some reasons thankfulness is a good perspective to take:
1. God asks us to. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says:
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
It’s a part of a longer passage where Paul is giving guidance to the Thessalonians about how to live a Christian lifestyle. I was sitting in bible study a few weeks ago and someone talked about their struggle with this passage: “How can I thank God for the trouble I experience?” The response was, the instruction is not to thank God for the struggle. It is to thank God in the struggle. We do this because we believe in the supremacy of God’s will, and because we believe in God’s omnipotent protection. Things might not look good, but we still have a reason to be thankful. A few weeks ago (the same week of that bible study!), I was in a car accident and my car was totaled. My first feelings were anger, frustration, confusion, and worry as I began thinking about all the barriers this would create. Then, one of the first responders came up to me, looked at my car, and said: “You really should have been hurt. It could have been a lot worse.” Those simple words helped me to see the whole picture. Two cars were totaled, another one damaged, and everyone walked away without a scratch. How could I not be thankful in a moment like that?
2. It changes our perspective. As I mentioned above, a focus on things we have to be thankful for can shift our whole perspective. We always have things to complain about. It’s just the nature of human existence. But we also can always find something to be thankful about. Imagine if you spent a whole day focusing on things to be thankful for rather than things you could complain about! Focusing on gratitude reminds us of things that are going well and fights against what can sometimes be a human tendency to focus on things that we experience as negative. It helps us to see the whole of our existence and gives us a reality check when we get grumpy or jaded.
3. It creates a powerful witness. Our thankfulness sends a clear, compelling message to other people about what it’s like to be in connection with God. It’s a reminder of the joy you can experience when you know that someone’s always got your back and when you can focus on the good even in a difficult situation. If you let it, thankfulness can snowball into joy that is far and above the limits of the life situation you are struggling with. It’s the kind of joy that will have people wondering “What’s gotten into him?” or “What is she doing with her life?” And when they ask, you will have an answer that demonstrates who you are and whose you are!
4. It’s contagious. Your thankfulness could provide the shift in perspective that someone else needs. In therapy, we call this a “reframe”. A reframe is when you view a situation from a different perspective or point of view. This is particularly helpful when the alternative point of view leads to us feeling a happier emotion. For example, let’s say you have this experience at work:
Original thought: My boss keeps giving me all this extra work, and I don’t think it’s fair.
Reframe: I am thankful that my boss has enough confidence in me to give me extra responsibility.
Same situation. Different perspective. Different emotional experience. When you operate in an attitude of gratitude, you send the implicit message for other people to do the same in their own lives. You have the ability to positively impact the people around you. When you operate in gratitude, you can begin to see and acknowledge the good in the lives of others as well. Share the wealth!
5. It calms the mind, the body, and the spirit. Research indicates that having an “attitude of gratitude” actually leads to better physical and mental health outcomes- less stress, more feelings of happiness, better relationships, and life satisfaction. Check out this website for more info. This research is not just about the subjective (or personal) experience of stress. At a physiological level, people who practice gratitude have less of the stress hormone cortisol in their systems. Cortisol is good for responding to an immediate physical threat, but terrible for overall health- it can lead to weight gain, memory loss, difficulty sleeping, and other negative outcomes. People who are thankful in this way tend to be happier, healthier, less anxious, less depressed, and more connected with others. Now, this isn’t to say that switching up your perspective won’t be challenging. Sure it will. You’re human. But, it will be worth it. Not only is our gratitude a gift to God, but we also reap the benefits. It’s a win/win situation.
So, here’s your challenge for the day:
Here are some other ways you can cultivate an attitude of thankfulness:
- Keep a gratitude journal for a full week: Write down everything you have to be thankful about each day and review it at the end of the day.
- Write a list of 3 or 4 people you are thankful for and write them letters or emails outlining the reasons you are thankful for your relationship with them.
- Go out of your way to say thank you when people perform a small act of kindness: opening a door, bringing you a message, offering a smile or a warm word.
- During your prayer time, focus only on things that you are thankful for and reserve asking for things for another prayer.
- Post things you are thankful for to social media and invite friends and followers to do the same.
Thanks for reading and make Well Choices!