Why Gratitude Improves Our Lives

Why Gratitude Improves Our Lives

 We all know we should be more grateful in our day to day lives.  But what if it feels like you have more things to complain about than express thanks for?  As a society, we are exposed to tons of ads telling us what we should have.  This often makes us feel as though our lives aren’t good enough.  It can be hard for us to express gratitude when all we can think of is the things we lack.  Reverend Bill Stearns, of the Franklin Evangelical Free Church, gives us some advice for cultivating gratitude in our daily lives.

 Words of Wisdom for Your Spiritual Lives

 Many of us struggle to feel grateful because we are thinking of the things we don’t have.  This ego-centric thinking can lead to ignoring what we have to be grateful for.  “Our spiritual nature is always fighting with our sinful nature,” said Reverend Bill Stearns.  “We become selfish and concerned about what happens to us.  Because life can be hard, it leads us to focus on the things we don’t have.” 

 This negative thinking leads to feelings of being inadequate.  Stearns believes that sometimes having hard times in our lives can lead us to focus on what we “should” have or achieve instead of the blessings we already have.  “Even as believers, we get so caught up with ourselves we become ungrateful.  Sometimes it takes a life altering event to remind us of what we have.  It’s a matter of our perspective,” explained Stearns.

 He likes to use the phrase, “biblical viewpoint.”  He shares the scripture, Psalm 100; “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”  In the midst of our daily lives, we often forget to approach our daily lives with an attitude of giving thanks.  Stearns says as adults, we forget to say “thank you” for the blessings we do have. 

 Saying Thank You in Our Daily Lives

 Say “thank you” for the things your spouse does every day.  Don’t forget the things they do day in and day out around your home.  Stearns says we tend to take our spouses for granted.  Just expressing gratitude towards a spouse, will make your relationship stronger.

 Do some volunteer service in your community.  Stearns believes looking around and realizing the hardships someone else may be dealing with can help us appreciate what we have.  For example, we may complain about winter weather.  But what about a cancer patient who can’t go outside because of their treatment? To them, even a few minutes of being outside is a blessing.

 Do something special for someone else.  Stearns believes part of having a “biblical viewpoint” is being able to take the focus of our own lives by giving to others in our community.  Is there someone in your community who needs a helping hand?  Is there a neighbor who could benefit from a home cooked meal?

 “It changes your outlook if you are making that effort to be grateful.  You will look at all things in a different way,” said Stearns.  “You will look at all the things [God] did give us; he gave us our salvation, he gave Christ willingly.”

Stearns says spending time in prayer and worship can help us to stop focusing on the things in life we may feel are lacking.   Taking the time to express our gratitude can also help us to keep our blessings in mind.  In fact, taking the time to write down what we are thankful for can help us to keep a positive outlook instead of focusing on the things we wish we had. 

 Can’t think of any physical things to be thankful for?  Focus on the things that have no monetary value.  Stearns believes being able to thank God for nature, our environment, friendships, and the daily blessings of our lives can help us overcome negative attitudes, jealousy, or feelings of envy.  In fact, he says putting on “spiritual glasses” can help us be grateful for what God has already given us in our lives. 

 Scientific Reasons to Express Gratitude

 It’s not just our spiritual lives that benefit from having an attitude of gratitude.  Scientists have found benefits for our bodies and mind as well.

 According to a 2011 study published in the Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, keeping a gratitude journal can help improve sleep.  Just spend fifteen minutes before going to bed, making a list of things you are grateful for.

 Being grateful can also lead to benefits in your daily life.  People who cultivate an attitude of gratitude, report taking better care of themselves and feeling healthier.  They are more likely to exercise and attend annual doctor check-ups.  Psychology Today reports that people who say they are grateful, report less aches and pains. 

 How to Put Gratitude into Action:

  •  Start a gratitude “jar.” Every day fill out a piece of paper with something that you are grateful for.  Think of things that aren’t attached to money, such as a close friendship, a beautiful sunset, or a tasty meal your spouse cooked.  
  • Send “thank you” cards or notes. You may find that more opportunities open up in both your professional and personal life.  
  • Find a place to do volunteer work. Don’t forget about your animal counterparts!  Actions can also express gratitude.  Serving a meal at a homeless shelter, helping a child in need, or adopting an abused animal can help you feel grateful for what you already have.  

- A the word changes contributor

Antoinette Rodney

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