November 25, 2014
As you read this, your home may be ‘scented’ with sauerkraut or pumpkin pie or sage or cornbread or whatever is on your menu for Thanksgiving. And if you will not be at your house, I imagine whatever your destination, preparations are underway. This holiday has become branded as one centered in ‘food and gratitude’. While I will let you make individual choices about the food you will enjoy, I want to share a new perspective on gratitude. Perhaps, this will be an interesting topic to bring up around your table.
Theologically, living a life of gratitude is indeed part of our Christian tradition as we primarily are called to give thanks for to God for all the gifts we are given. As a matter of fact, all major religions claim the significance that thankfulness potentially contributes to individual spiritual experiences. This perspective has been part of a commonly held belief system for many people for many years but until recently has never been ‘studied’.
There is a rather new arena of study called ‘positive psychology’ (the branch of psychology that uses scientific understanding and effective intervention to aid in the achievement of a satisfactory life, rather than merely treating mental illness.) Researchers who utilize this approach have been studying the benefits of living a life of gratitude. According to the Harvard Health Review: “People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude. Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it is a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate fully.”
A summary of 31 benefits of gratitude that have now been empirically confirmed is shown on the chart below:
In addition, the chart below reflects the research from another source:
The following are ways to cultivate or enhance feelings of gratitude:
- Keep a gratitude journal in which you write down 3 things each day for which you are grateful.
- Write a thank you note to a person to whom you are very grateful.
- Thank someone ‘mentally’ if you do not have time to actually write them a note.
- Count your blessings on a regular basis.
If you are interested, I invite you to go to the following link which contains the “Gratitude Questionnaire-Six Item Form”. You can quickly assess your Attitude of Gratitude. This might be an interesting exercise for those around the Thanksgiving Table. Enjoy!
On my gratitude list is the congregation and staff of The Church of the Redeemer! God bless each of you as you have blessed me.