15 So let the peace that comes from Christ control your thoughts. And be grateful. Colossians 3:15 (CEV)
- Gratitude makes us feel happier
Studies have confirmed that having gratitude does in fact make you feel happier. Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons from the University of California, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough from the University of Miami, have committed much of their research careers to studying the effects of gratitude.
In one such study, the researchers asked a group of people to write a few sentences every week about a particular topic. One group was instructed to write about things that didn’t make them happy. Another was instructed to write about things that they were grateful for. And the control group was instructed to write about things that had occurred but with no focus towards being positive or negative.
The results? The group that was instructed to write about things that they were grateful for were far more happier and optimistic about their lives than the group that had focused on things that had occurred in a negative light. When we’re grateful for things, it’s a natural occurrence to be happier about life. You realize the things you have rather than the things you don’t.
It’s far easier to go about your day in a state of appreciation when you’re grateful than when you’re not. This isn’t always easy to do because we all have what’s called a “Hedonic Set Point,” or a baseline level of happiness. When that threshold is crossed one way or another, we become either unhappy or happy. This is also referred to as the Hedonic Treadmill, often related to the incessant drive to accumulate things that only bring momentary bliss but don’t offer sustained happiness.
- Gratitude improves the quality of our lives
From your mental health and wellness, to your emotional fortitude, spiritual aptitude, and your physical strength can all be derived from the simple and basic behavior of gratitude. Gratitude can change your life by quite literally improving the quality of it. You’re the sum of all your parts, and it’s gratitude that can help to benefit each of those small parts.
Studies have uniquely linked gratitude with satisfaction of life and it’s no secret that people who are grateful for things are far more satisfied in their lives. There’s a sound stability that exists when you can appreciate the importance of things in your life, no matter what shape, size or form factor they might take on.
However, many think that it’s easy for successful people to be grateful because they have so much to be grateful for. Gratitude isn’t just about success, money, jobs, cars, houses, or anything else. Do these things help to improve the quality of your life? Yes, sometimes, but these things can also mean more problems.
Gratitude must be present before the attainment of large sums of money or success. When it doesn’t, people can go off the rails. In Sudden Wealth Syndrome it’s easy to see why so many lottery winners and inheritance receives go bankrupt in a very short period after the windfall of cash arrives.
- Gratitude reduces our innermost fears
It’s hard to be fearful and grateful at the same time. Fear is what occurs when we’re left to dwell on topics that we feel are out of our control. We extrapolate the worst-possible scenarios and picture our future plight and our eventual demise when we’re living in a state of fear.
But by being grateful, fear can be overcome. When we’re utterly grateful for everything we have, including our problems, fear has little place to live in our minds. When we’re fearful of things that put us into a state of scarcity, such as not having enough money to pay our bills or put groceries into our fridge, we’re living in a state of lack rather than a state of abundance.
Being grateful, however, puts you into a state of abundance. It instills the belief that you’re thankful for what you have, right now, in this very moment, rather than worrying about what you don’t have or won’t have at some future point in time. Often, we save our gratitude for one day of the year — Thanksgiving. On that day, we question ourselves for not being grateful every other day of the year.
And why not? Why can’t we be grateful every day of the year? Why does it take a day that’s slated for giving thanks for us to stop and actually do so? We can completely abolish much of our fears by being grateful every single day. Decide, right now, that you’ll create the daily habit of gratitude and express what your grateful for through prayer, conversations and by writing out everything you have to be grateful for, and watch as your fears dissipate over time.
4. Gratitude shifts our focus
One of the reasons why gratitude can change your life is because it shifts your focus. Life is all about focus. Whatever we focus on, we move towards. When we live in a state of negativity, we live that out. It’s easy to see something in a negative light when you’re focused on that. It’s easy to see all the problems and dilemmas surrounding a situation when your thinking is habitually geared towards that.
In turn, it’s also easy to see things in a positive light, even when problems arise. If you’ve ever met an always-positive person, you know just how true this statement is. Even when something goes wrong, they look for the silver-lining in the situation. If they can’t find one, they simply state that something good will eventually come out of whatever they’re going through.
We can easily move from a negative state to a positive state by recounting all of the things that we have to be grateful for on a daily basis either in prayer, verbally or by writing it down.
- Gratitude strengthens our faith
Gratitude transforms your faith by instilling the belief that you’re not alone and that whatever it is that you’re going through, it will pass, and on the other end you’ll emerge victorious. You’ll accomplish your goals, overcome your obstacles, and become more like Christ. There’s an appreciation for all things that occur for those that are grateful.
35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. Romans 8:35-37 (NLT)
For me, it’s my belief in Jesus, that He loves me and that all things are working together, including all my problems.
Special thanks to Andy Edson our Campus Pastor in Jarrell and a counselor for sending these resources and ideas related to this topic.