With Thanksgiving coming soon, I thought It would be appropriate to consider the subject of gratitude. A 2012 article in Psychology Today cited an interesting study done by Chinese researchers. The study found that higher levels of gratitude were associated with better sleep and lower levels of anxiety and depression. A 2002 study by Robert Emmons found that people who regularly were grateful were more forgiving, empathetic, helpful, and supportive. Another study found that people who are more grateful 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.
The study found that 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 long ago wrote that a full heart is less prone to sin. An empty, deprived, or negative heart is more prone to harbor emotions such as greed, lust, envy, and coveting. Often the person with an empty heart is inclined to go from one relationship to another, expecting someone else to make them feel fulfilled. 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 and destructive ways.
What is gratitude? It's the practice of being thankful. To fill our hearts with gratitude, we are encouraged to keep a gratitude journal.
In this journal, we have three categories:
1. In general, three things in life we are thankful for.
2. Three things about our spouse or a friend we are
thankful for. (We might want to share these things
3. Three things about ourselves that we are thankful
for. These might include personal traits or
something we have done.
It is amazing how, when we start counting our reasons to be grateful, a whole new world opens up. We begin seeing previously overlooked reasons for gratitude. I like to illustrate this by telling how my wife and I had our eyes opened when it came to cars. After we were married, our first car was a Volkswagen Beetle. We didn't realize how many Beetles were on the road until we bought one. They were there all the time, but we have overlooked them. How many more things in our lives do we not see because we are not looking? We could be missing so many reasons for being grateful. Keeping a gratitude journal gives us eyes that see.
My message is to let us prepare for Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season by filling our hearts with gratitude. May we have eyes that see all the blessings we are given each day.
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