How do you deal with anxiety and fear? A 2012 article in Psychology Today, suggested one way to deal with anxiety and fear. The article cited an interesting study done by the Chinese whose researchers found that higher levels of gratitude were associated with better sleep and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Besides the Chinese study of gratitude, a study in 2002 by Robert Emmons showed that people who regularly were grateful were more forgiving, more empathetic, helpful and supportive. In another study, people who are more grateful were able to recover more quickly from suffering and dramatic events.
I know being grateful has been a subject explored by people such as Oprah, but I would like to present a different approach.
...higher levels of gratitude
were associated with better sleep
and lower levels of anxiety and depression.
Being grateful can fill our hearts. The church fathers have written that a full heart is less prone to sin. An empty heart, a deprived heart or a negative heart is more prone to harbor emotions such as greed, lust, envy, and coveting. Often the person with an empty heart is prone to go from one relationship to another, expecting someone else to fill their heart. A friend of mine said that sometimes we make bad choices not because we are evil, but because we are trying to meet our needs in unhealthy ways that can be destructive.
What is gratitude? It's the practice of being thankful. So to fill our hearts with gratitude, we are encouraged to keep a gratitude journal.
In this journal, we have three categories:
1. In general, for which three things in your life are you thankful?
2. For which three things about your spouse or a friend are you thankful? Might you want to share these things with them?
3. For which three things about yourself are you thankful? These might include something that you have done and some trait you possess.
It is amazing that when we start counting our reasons to be grateful, a whole new world opens up. We begin seeing reasons to be grateful that we might have previously missed. I like to illustrate this by telling how our eyes were opened. Our first car after we were married was a Volkswagen Beetle. I didn't realize how many Beetles were on the road until we bought one. They were there all the time, but I didn't see them until I had one. How many more things are in our lives that we do not see because we are not looking? There are so many reasons to be grateful that we could be missing. Keeping a gratitude journal gives us eyes that see.
So, the message is that in order to handle anxiety and fear, we need to fill our heart with gratitude.
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700