“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name”—Psalm 100:4 (NIV).
One of the things I like about technology is being able to stay connected with others. While I sometimes groan about our fast-paced world, I love keeping up with like-minded individuals through Facebook. On November 1, I noticed a 40-Day “thanks”-giving challenge. Each day in November, people began to post those things and people for which they are grateful. I joined the challenge and began posting daily.
During November, we celebrate a national day of thanksgiving, always the last Thursday of the month. This American holiday is a time to remember and give thanks for all of our blessings. For many, however, it’s the only day of the year they feel led to express their gratitude.
Did you know that one of humanity’s most powerful positive emotions is gratitude? Several years ago, psychologists started studying the science of giving thanks. What they discovered might surprise you. When you count your blessings, it makes you happier, even during difficult times.
Psychology professor Michael McCullough has studied people who were asked to be thankful on a regular basis. “When you stop to count your blessings, you are sort of hijacking your emotional system.”
Research by McCullough and others has revealed that giving thanks is a powerful emotion, feeding on itself. McCullough says, “Psychologists used to underestimate the strength of simple gratitude. It does make people happier. It’s an incredible feeling.”
Another psychologist, Maryann Troiana, has her clients keep a gratitude journal. By listing daily what they are thankful for, it changes their attitude and outlook on life. Agreeing, psychology professor Robert Emmons says, “It is important to focus more on the people for whom you are grateful. By concentrating on what life would be like without the good things, especially people like our spouses, you begin to realize just how grateful you are.”
Grateful people “feel more alert, alive, interested and enthusiastic,” Emmons says. “They also feel more connected to others.” Emmons, who has written two books on the science of gratitude, often studies the effects of using a gratitude journal.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul writes, “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”
Thank God no matter what happens? Surely, Paul was joking. What if we lived each day in gratitude for what we do have? What if we recalled the ways He has taken care of us in the past? Instead of complaining about those things we lack, what if we began to take an inventory of our simple treasures and conveniences like family, friends, food, shelter, electricity, a vehicle, our health and more. The list is endless.
While we can be blindsided by life’s unexpected burdens, we can choose to give thanks in all circumstances. Each day should be a day of thanksgiving to God and a lifestyle among God’s people. What are you thankful for today?
Coming soon: Carol’s new book, “Sola Fide: by FAITH alone.”