by César De León PhD LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference
I don’t remember ever taking a course in gratitude. Do you? Yet, I suspect that all I have continued to learn about the holistic benefits ruminating on gratitude is probably more important to my health and well-being than most can imagine.
Our alternative is grim. We can choose to graze on the awfulness of all around us. A 10-minute stop to watch any news channel will give us 1001 reasons to worry, to get upset, to raise our blood pressure, to increase the cortisol levels in our bloodstream and to ensure a decline in our mental, emotional, physical and relational well-being.
I have learned from personal experience that when I begin my day in a quiet, personal reflection on God and His Word and even before opening the Word, I write out 7 things for which I am grateful, it jump starts my mind and soul and sets me off on a winning trajectory that helps me face the challenges the day will inadvertently give me.
Indeed, multiple studies are showing how expressing gratitude (to God and others) reduces stress, increases optimism and changes our brain.
More and more, even unchurched people that are seeking out a lifestyle that afford them mental, emotional and physical healthy are practicing daily (and moment by moment) gratitude and finding the holistic benefits to their lives.
As you know, I always rejoice when modern scientific studies validate the ancient wisdom we have at our fingertips in the word.
Paul, in Ephesians 5:15-20 invites us to walk in wisdom:
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as WISE, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be UNWISE, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for ALL THINGS to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. . .”(NKJV—bold and italic applied by author).
We are living in trying times. Now—in the midst of what we are being told will be a “dark winter” due to Covid fallout, I invite you and yours to consider the medicinal effects of living in gratitude as we celebrate some unique and unusual upcoming holidays. Let’s make some time to spend counting the blessings we are enjoying while we continue to find ways to serve those less fortunate in our circles of influence.
I found a great article written by Courtney Ackerman where he divides 28 benefits of gratitude into five different categories (emotional, social, personality career and health benefits) and offers the proper scientific data for his conclusions:
“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole hearts; I will tell of all Your marvelous works, I will be glad and rejoice in YOU; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” Psalm 9:1 (NKJV).