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Thankfulness and Gratitude

 

If you've forgotten the language of gratitude and thankfulness, you'll never be on speaking terms with happiness. ~ unknown

The more grateful a person is, the less depressed ~ unknown

Scientific research shows that you can improve the things in this amazing list, simply by being thankful:

  • Your happiness is increased by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your disposition is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your mood is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • How you feel about your life as a whole is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your marriage is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your spouse is more likely to experience and improved sense of well being when you have an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your career is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your physical symptoms are improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your psychosocial condition is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your physical condition is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your motivation to exercise is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your health is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your spiritual life is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your academic achievement is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your energy level is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your ability to handle tragedy is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your ability to handle stress is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your relationships are improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your capacity to be empathic is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your capacity to take the perspective of others is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • How people rate your generosity is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • How people rate your helpfulness is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your how optimistic you are about the coming week is improved by an Your attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your positive emotions are improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your life satisfaction is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your vitality is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your depression levels are lowered by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your stress levels are lowered by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your pleasant feeling states are improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness. (though thankfulness does not have as much effect in diminishing unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not necessarily deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.)
  • Your tendency to place importance on material goods is decreased by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your tendency to judge your own or other people's success in terms of possessions accumulated is decreased by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your tendency to be envious of wealthy persons is decreased by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your tendency to share your possessions with others is increased by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your goodwill towards others is increased by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • You are more likely to help others with a personal problem or to offer emotional support to others if you develop an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.


young adults:

  • You can achieve higher levels of positive states of alertness
  • Your enthusiasm is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your determination is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your attentiveness is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • Your energy is improved by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • All this while at the same time being fully aware of unpleasant emotional experiences, that is without leaving reality


husbands and wives:

  • For every one (1) complaint, frown, put-down, expression of anger, etc., you need about five (5) smiles, compliments, times of laughter, expressions of appreciation, gratitude, and thankfulness, etc., or your marriage will not survive.
  • That is a ratio of a minimum of five positive to one negative for a high likelihood of a happy, healthy marriage.
  • Lower ratios tend to result in unhappy marriages that end in tragic divorce. (Dr. John Gottman, University of Washington)


those with neuro-muscular disease:

  • You can improve your high energy positive moods by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • You can feel more connected to others by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • You can feel more optimistic by an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • You are more likely to experience more hours of sleep each night if you develop an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • You are more likely to feel more refreshed upon awakening if you develop an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.
  • You are more likely to experience more satisfaction with your life as a whole if you develop an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness.

For a follower of Christ, gratitude and thankfulness come naturally. Sometimes, though, due to the influences of society--the world--on us, we who follow Christ find that we end up following the culture into a pattern of unthankfulness and selfishness rather than listening to the voice of God as He leads us. If we do such a thing, we are much more likely to be unhappy, grumpy, irritable, short tempered, and lacking in joy. Thankfulness brings happiness and joy. While an attitude of entitlement, "this is owed to me," or "I deserve," leads to all sorts of problems, just recognizing and being thankful for what God has done has many wonderful benefits.

How does one become thankful and how does one begin to possess more gratitude? First, the Holy Spirit brings these with Himself. The closer you are to God, the more thankful you will become. Here are four other ways:

  • Expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving (written or oral)
  • Testimonies of what God has given to you (written or oral)
  • Statements of appreciation to others around you (written or oral)
  • Prayers of praise and thanksgiving

Many scientific studies have proved the beneficial nature of thankfulness. Some studies just had people write down five things from the previous week for which they were grateful and showed dynamic benefits. Some studies had people write down things they were thankful for daily rather than just weekly with much more dramatic results. So, weekly exercises helped, but daily exercises helped more. Imagine when someone is thankful moment by moment in an experience that is more than just an academic exercise.

People who attend religious services and practice prayer, reading spiritual writings, and who do these things regularly, are more likely to be grateful/thankful than people who are not. This is part of the power of the daily family devotion time. Grateful people are more likely to be able to see how every aspect of life impacts every other aspect. Thankful people are more likely to see their responsibility toward others (McCullough et. al., 2002). Interestingly, those people who seek to help others through political means are actually less happy and less likely to help others themselves. Other studies have shown that those people who actually help others by reaching into their own limited resources are much more happy and fulfilled than those who favor government programs to help others.

Indebtedness may seem to be the same as gratitude, but it is not the same. It is not the sense of the need to pay back that helps. It is gratitude. That is why gratitude to God is so powerful. We can't possibly pay Him back. The fact is that an attitude of indebtedness actually works in the opposite direction as an attitude of gratitude. People who develop an attitude of indebtedness have higher levels of anger and lower levels of appreciation, happiness, and love. (Gray & Emmons, 2000).

The best way to develop this attitude of gratitude is under grace; however, you can do it under law as well--it is just not nearly as effective. Grace is only available through the blood of Jesus. Receiving Jesus and His forgiveness requires humility. Grace itself requires humility, since it requires that you realize that only God can do good works through you. It is impossible to do truly good works, including works of thankfulness, without God. Grace works this way: Seek God. Get close to Him. Let Him lead you and speak to you. Faith comes by hearing Him. He gives a vision of His hope, who you really are destined to be in Christ and how you fit into the Body of Christ and what is and is not the Body of Christ. God's faith gives you access to God's grace, God's power for righteousness and transfiguration. You allow God to do His works thtough you, including God's work of thankfulness. When God does His work through you, His Spirit changes you to be more like Jesus Christ.

"Without gratitude and thankfulness, life can be lonely, depressing and impoverished," (Emmons) "gratitude and thankfulness enriches human life. It elevates, energizes, inspires and transforms. People are moved, opened and humbled through expressions of gratitude and thankfulness." (Emmons)

All of the above, can be a benefit to unbelievers, but not to the extent that it can be a benefit to believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit. There is a compassion that is available to unbelievers. The Bible speaks of "natural compassion." Research confirms that natural compassion exists. Natural compassion is not the same as righteousness, though righteousness is compassionate. Righteousness is responding to the leading of God--it is God doing His work through a person. Natural compassion is something that God designed into people. An attitude of gratitude and thankfulness increases natural compassion, even in unbelievers.

University of Wisconsin psychologist Jack Nitschke found that mothers looking at pictures of their own babies, felt more compassionate love than they did when seeing other babies. Duh! This is exactly what we would expect from natural compassion. Natural compassion is most strong among our own families. It's a good thing. God warns us that people will even lose natural compassion as evil increases in the earth.

Nitschke found unique activity in one region of the brains that is associated with the positive emotions. Nitschke is not able to detect the mind/soul/heart and how it interfaces with the brain and nervous system of the body. That seems to be outside the current ability to observe and monitor using science. Science is a gift for which we ought to thank God, but it is not omniscient. It is a limited tool. However, Nitschke was able to associate this unique "positive emotion" activity to natural affection for our own offspring.

Another element is the human conscience. The human conscience, which God designed into every person, lets us know what is right and what is wrong without having ever learned it. However, the human conscience can go bad, it can be seared, it can be rendered useless. When people see strangers who are in harm's way, Nitchke was able to detect similar neurological reactions to those of natural affection that take place with seeing one's own family. The conscience tells people to help the less fortunate. These responses are increased in people who are thankful. (Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen of Princeton University)

For the unbeliever, it is logically inconsistent to be grateful. They don't know to be grateful to their Creator God. Yet, if they will take a step in doing what makes no sense within their worldview, and just write down five things for which they are thankful every day, they will still experience great benefits. A much more beneficial course is to yield to God, Who is Love, and allow Him to fill you with His Power for righteousness, including gratitude and thankfulness.

Sources:
research on gratitude and thankfulness by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D.
research on gratitude and thankfulness by McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002
research on gratitude and thankfulness by Dr. John Gottman
research on gratitude and thankfulness by Philip Watkins, clinical psychologist, Eastern Washington University
research on gratitude and thankfulness by Dr. John Gottman
research on gratitude and thankfulness by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., University of California at Davis and Mike McCullough, University of Miami
research on gratitude and thankfulness by Drs. Blaire and Rita Justice, University of Texas Health Science Center
research on gratitude and thankfulness by Dr. John Gottman
research by Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen, Princeton University
research on gratitude and thankfulness by Dr. John Gottman
research by Jack Nitchke, University of Wisconsin



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Last updated: Feb, 2013
 
 




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