Why is it that humans are quicker to complain than enjoy? Why do they seek out ways to judge, rather than honor others? Is it the insecurities and sinful nature of man? Is it that people aren’t ready to learn and practice the true art of gratitude in their lives?
Intentional gratitude does not come easily for most people. Humans are hard-wired to the flight or fight reflex. In a crowd or unfamiliar situation, the brain is assessing danger and risk. The average American wakes up each morning with more to be grateful for than to be fearful of. Yet, when faced with a new situation or challenge they often seek to find where in the situation they are most comfortable and will gain the most access to what they need, rather than seeking out where they can find gratitude and thankfulness in that situation. They become defensive until all their mental checklist for self-comfort are checked off.
Charles Dickens wrote “reflect upon your present blessings—of which every man has many—not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”[i] Thoughtful gratitude can change the brain. Doctors recommend initiating gratitude when recovering from illness and depression. Keeping a daily journal of gratitude is often prescribed. Saying a heartfelt “thank you” more often and offering praise to God for what is given each day, is very therapeutic. Gratitude has been said to release toxic emotions, reduce pain, improve sleep quality, and reduce anxiety and depression.[ii] Far too often, people choose to reflect on the bad rather than the good.
The apostle Paul writes often about thankfulness: giving thanks for all things, in all circumstances (Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18), being thankful even in suffering (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:1-4), and to do everything in the name of Jesus out of a spirit of gratefulness (Colossians 3:17). [iii] Additionally, the Psalms are peppered with thankfulness to God and His goodness towards mankind. The overall message is one of love and praise.
In this holiday season, become aware of thankfulness and gratitude in life. Too much of everyday life is denied the gratitude that it deserves. If you have feet to walk, thank God for feet. If you can have a bed, food, and health then be grateful. When you open your eyes, praise God for another day of life to live in Christ’s service. Break the world’s pattern of complaining by practicing gratitude. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2). The key is the renewing. It takes time and effort daily to garner an attitude of gratitude.
Focus on the Family gives us five ideas for teaching our children to have gratitude during the Thanksgiving season. Make a family list of thankfulness. Take pictures of things you are thankful for. Write a gratitude list on the Thanksgiving tablecloth. Do a service project together during the holiday season and begin a family “thankful for” journal.[iv] Live this holiday season with a renewed sense of gratitude and practice daily. You will be grateful you did.
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[i] https://parade.com/937289/parade/thankful-quotes/ [ii] https://positivepsychology.com/neuroscience-of-gratitude/ [iii] https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/gratitude-bible-verses/ [iv] https://www.crosswalk.com/family/parenting/ways-to-focus-your-family-on-gratitude-this-thanksgiving.html