Thankfulness


gratitude

Thankfulness or Gratitude is a powerful action and an emotion that has life changing impact. Much has been written on the topic and this blog entry is not intended to reveal anything new or different but to merely bring awareness today on its power. My hope is that this entry will spark thanksgiving in your life! Then you will share the message so that others will take hold of this great truth. The Bible is always the first place that I look to. The Biblical writer commands thankfulness: “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ[1]” and “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.[2]

Why is gratitude so important and by what virtue is it so powerful?  

Gratitude is spiritual and psychological with physical benefits!   It lifts one out of narrow minded, parochial thinking to positive healthy thoughts! It brings faith and affirmation in goodness and the ability to change. Gratitude turns fatalism on its heels, eases depressed emotions, reduces stress levels, boosts the immune system, reduces relational tensions, increases one’s self esteem. All of those benefits occur with a simple utterance…”I am thankful for____________.” More to be written on this in the next paragraph!

Research supports this!

Positive Psychology is a movement that studies how human beings prosper in the face of adversity. Its goals are to identify and enhance the human strengths and virtues that make life worth living, and allow individuals and communities to thrive.[3] The famous psychologist Abraham Maslow spoke of a psychology in which attention should be given not only to what is, but also to what could be. That is what I call faith. Faith is not a scientific term yet the great psychologist refers to it! Positive psychology uses the scientific method to show the nature of individual difference in gratitude, and the consequences of being a more or less grateful person.[4] Three scales have been developed to measure individual differences in gratitude, each of which assesses somewhat different conceptions.[5] The GQ6 measures individual differences in how frequently and intensely people feel gratitude. The Appreciation Scale measures 8 different aspects of gratitude: appreciation of people, possessions, the present moment, rituals, feeling of awe, social comparisons, existential concerns, and behavior which express gratitude. The GRAT Scale assesses gratitude towards other people, gratitude towards the world in general, and a lack of resentment for what you do not have.

Gratitude is associated with well-being!

Research shows that people who are more grateful are happier! Grateful people are less depressed, less stressed, and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships.[6] Grateful people also have higher levels of control of their environment, personal growth, purpose in life, and self acceptance.[7] Grateful people have more positive ways of coping with the difficulties they experience in life in several ways: Firstly, they are more likely to seek support from other people. Secondly, they can accept and grow from the experience, and finally spend more time planning how to deal with the problem. Grateful people also have less negative coping strategies, being less likely to try to avoid a problem, deny there is a problem, blame themselves, or cope through substance use. Grateful people sleep better, and this seems to be because they think less negative and have more positive thoughts just before going to sleep.[8] [9]

Gratitude has been said to have one of the strongest links with mental health of any character trait. Numerous studies suggest that grateful people are more likely to have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and depression.[10] In addition, a longitudinal study showed that people who were more grateful coped better with life’s transitions. Specifically, people who were more grateful before the transition were less stressed, less depressed, and more satisfied with their relationships three months later[11]

Therapeutic Considerations…a gratitude journal and a gratitude letter

In one study concerning gratitude, participants were randomly assigned to one of six therapeutic intervention conditions designed to improve the participant’s overall quality of life, out of these conditions, it was found that the biggest short-term effects came from a “gratitude visit” where participants wrote and delivered a letter of gratitude to someone in their life. This condition showed a rise in happiness scores by 10 percent and a significant fall in depression scores, results which lasted up to one month after the visit. Out of the six conditions, the longest lasting effects were caused by the act of writing “gratitude journals” where participants were asked to write down three things they were grateful for every day. These participants’ happiness scores also increased and continued to increase each time they were tested periodically after the experiment. In fact, the greatest benefits were usually found to occur around six months after treatment began. This exercise was so successful that although participants were only asked to continue the journal for a week, many participants continued to keep the journal long after the study was over.[12]

Practical Considerations…Taking Action!

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Practice thankfulness!

Use your voice to express thanksgiving. It might be words spoken in prayer to God, or a simple conversation with a friend or family member. Maybe it will take the form of a song or even just a whisper. Whatever the form; let your vocal chords practice gratitude today.

Use your eyes..read the Bible to increase your faith. Read other literature that promotes positive thinking and thankfulness. The web has many good sources; such as, http://encyclopediaofgratitude.tumblr.com/

Use your ears…listen to music that enriches your soul, listen to others and learn how they apply thankfulness in their lives.

Use your hands…begin a gratitude journal to record what you are thankful for each and every day. Try a gratitude list that you can look at for a quick reminder of what is most important in your life. Or try a gratitude letter. Write someone to whom you are grateful to, read them the letter and celebrate that relationship.

If you don’t feel grateful, then fake it! You just gotta prime that pump, you will feel thankful after a while!

Hear the words of St Paul: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”[13]

At Crossroads our counselors are ready to help you change your negative thinking to a more positive and thankful frame of thinking.  You can contact us here.

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[1] Ephesians 5:20

[2] 1 Thessalonians 5:18

[3] Froh, Jeffory, J. The History of Positive Psychology: The Truth be Told. May/June 2004. St Joseph’s College

[4] Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Linley, P. A. (2007).Gratitude: The parent of all virtues. The Psychologist, 20, 18-21

[5] Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Stewart, N., & Joseph, S. (2008). Conceptualizing gratitude and appreciation as a unitary personality trait. Personality and Individual Differences, 44, 619-630.

[6] McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 112-127.

[7] Wood, A. M., Joseph, S. & Maltby (2009). Gratitude predicts psychological well-being above the Big Five facets. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 655-660.

[8]Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Linley, P. A. (2007).Coping style as a psychological resource of grateful people. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26, 1108–1125.

[9] Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Atkins, S. (2009).Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66, 43-48

[10] Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Linley, P. A. (2007).Coping style as a psychological resource of grateful people. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 26, 1108–1125.

[11] Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Gillett, R., Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2008). The role of gratitude in the development of social support, stress, and depression: Two longitudinal studies. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 854-871

[12] http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200602/make-gratitude-adjustment By Lauren Aaronson, published on March 01, 2006 – last reviewed on August 24, 2009

[13] Colosiaans 3:15-17

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