Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thank You Power

Let me say "Hey Y'all" to eveyone visiting from my devotion published today. Glad you stopped by.

The research I referenced in the devotion comes out of an academic journal. However, if you'd like to read more about it, follow this link. I'm also reading a research-based book called The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. It's not a Christian book - a group of faculty from the university I teach at is reading it in a book club - but it's not a typical "self-help" book either. The well credentialed author focuses on the scientific study of happiness. I've found it's findings to be consistent with what God's Word teaches. Plus, I'm finding it quite interesting!

For instance, did you know that we each have a genetically determined set-point for happiness? It represents 50% of what determines our general level of happiness. It varies from person to person and is the level we'll tend to return to over and over, even after major setbacks or major triumphs.

Even more fascinating is the fact that our circumstances only represent 10% of what determines our level of happiness. How often have we assumed we'd be happier if we could get a better job or a better spouse; a prettier body or a prettier house? Research shows while these things can provide a temporary happy-boost, even those who win the lottery or get total body makeovers return to their happiness set point ... often within a year or so. All life circumstances put together only account for about 10% in how happy we are. Is that as eye-opening to you as it is to me?

But that still leaves 40% of our level of happiness determined by something other than our genetics and our circumstances. Guess what it's determined by? Our thoughts and behavior. And there are several intentional behaviors we can do to boost this 40%. One of them is cultivating gratitude.

Grateful people are more likely to help others, and to build social bonds. They are better at coping with stress and trauma. Grateful people tend to have more positive self-awareness and are less likely to compare themselves to others. And, it turns out, gratitude has the power to dissolve negative feelings like anger, jealousy, fear and defensiveness. All these things result in greater daily feelings of happiness.

Gratitude journaling is a great way to get intentional about developing a mind set on gratefulness. Journaling (about once a week on average) has been reliably shown to boost happiness in repeated research studies. (Particularly for those who enjoy reading and/or writing.)

However, if you count your blessings in a journal every day in the exact same way, you may become bored with it, and it could lose its power. So change it up some weeks. Try calling a friend to tell her what you're thankful for. Try writing a letter of gratitude to someone who has positively impacted your life. Send more heart-felt thank you cards. Buy a gift, create a piece of art, or cook for someone as a way to express your gratitude for them. Giving is a great expression of gratitude. Just don't make it so hard or so involved to pull off that you won't do it.

A letter of gratitude would be a touching, inexpensive gift this holiday season. And likely to be cherished longer than any trinket you could buy. Or maybe you could just purchase them a copy of the happiness book and a blank journal. Just a thought for all of you uninterested in braving the after-Thanksgiving sales crowds. :)

Meanwhile, feel free to start chronicling your gratitude in the comments on this post. What are you thankful for today?


  1. How interesting! Keep teaching us from what you are learning! I am going to implement a grateful time into my childrens day...seems like it will begin to form a habit for a healthy life.
    Today, I am grateful for you!
    Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours!

  2. I am thankful for family today. We are all gathering together and I'm looking forward to it.

  3. I'm thankful I have my health this Thanksgiving. And for my job. And for my sister.

  4. "Let me be clear, there are terrible things that happen to us that may not be the will of God, but us praising God and giving thanks in spite of them certainly is the will of God."
    Got this in the p31 daily devotion...I hope you just missed this and can see the false theology in this statement. Perhaps looking at Romans 11:43-36 would help (or Job).I know we often just state things as christian that may sound good but we must watch what we are implying about the sovereignty of God. I am thankful for His word, His Truth,His Justice, His Grace & Mercy to name just a few :) Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. Let me be clear, there are terrible things that happen to us that may not be the will of God, but us praising God and giving thanks in spite of them certainly is the will of God.
    This is a quote from your Proverbs 31 Devotional you wrote for today, and I wanted to point out that God is Sovereign, so even the terrible things are in His will, or else he would not be Sovereign and Omnipotent.

  6. Hi Anon. It is God's will that all would come to a saving knowledge of Christ, but not all do. People have a degree of choice in what they do while here.

    I would also hesitate to tell someone who was raped as a child that it was God's will for that to happen to her. Evil exists and evil happens. Original sin unleashed it. God has chosen to allow evil to exist a while longer before restraining Satan (book of Revelation). However, I'd hesitate to say that it is God's will, His desire, for evil to exist in the hearts of people. That does not seem to be His intent when creating Adam and Eve and instructing them in the Garden of Eden.

    So does God always know what is happening? Yes. Could He intervene and stop or change it? Yes. Does He? Not always. However, I wouldn't necessarily say that all He allows to happen, He desires or intends. You may see it differently, and that is fine.

  7. Found this. It might help clear the discussion here about God's will.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Rachel, hope you have a great day.

  8. I'm really grateful for my home. Its small but warm and i love the curtains in my bedroom. :)

    I'm also thankful for my church. And for this ministry. (Proverbs 31)

  9. Thank you for your devotional today! I was having a hard time dealing with being away from my sister this holiday (my parents are deceased) and dreading another Thanksgiving with difficult in-laws. This has put things into perspective for me and I will commit to journaling things I'm thankful for each day through Christmas. Today it was the pair of cardinals on my feeder this morning, my supportive supervisor, and that I can pay the bills with my paycheck I received today. May you have a blessed Thanksgiving!

  10. My heart is filled with gratitude just reading and learning of the benefits in which you have taught us about today! I am going to pray for God to help me cultivate a heart and lifestyle of gratitude, God Bless.

  11. "Let me be clear, there are terrible things that happen to us that may not be the will of God . . ."
    I understand why you would point out something like the rape of a child as a terrible thing - it is - but to say it is outside God's will leaves me feeling even more bereft and alone. God is sovereign - shall the created question the creator? Shall not the God of all the earth do good? Things meant by humans for evil God uses for good. The Bible is full of these examples. By allowing "bad" things in the lives of His children, He is accomplishing His purpose for their sanctification, even if the unsaved world would say that it is unspeakably horrible and how could a God of love allow that to happen? This is where the "peace that passes understanding" comes into play. It is why God sent the Holy Spirit, the paraclete, to come alongside and comfort us. No matter what happens to me, I rest assured that it is all in God's will and He will not give me more than I can handle.

  12. Hi Christine. The term "God's will" probably needs defining before we discuss this further. I think if you follow the link that was posted by the fourth annonymous you will better understand my views on this subject.

    Else, another place you could read is: Basically, I want to point out that I beleive there are levels of God's will that come into play in such a discussion.

    Absolutely God uses what humans or Satan meant for evil to accomplish His good will! We agree 100% there. That's one of the biggest things I am grateful for!

    Sweet Blessings to you ~ Rachel

  13. No one has all the answers. God is the only truth, the only infinite that we know, and we only know Him by faith.

    We will always differ about the interpretations of words ( Babel).
    We can seek understanding and truth,but we can only find it in faith.

  14. I am thankful that God never leaves us and that through our trials he will teach us if we allow Him to. I am also thankful that he gifts people such as yourself Rachel to encourage us on our journey of faith.

  15. I am grateful for everyone who tries to make life positive for others. We need this so much.

    Have a Blessed Thanksgiving !

  16. Wow! What a refresher! I'm thankful for your blog today...reminded me of so many things I think we all know in our head but so often don't apply in our heart/being. If anyone's interested in the actual science behind this I recommend a positive psychology class, it was one of the most interesting/most rewarding psych classes I took in college. :) It's wonderful how God works in our lives! Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

  17. It's interesting that you should suggest we think of what we are thankful for today, as I just finished carrying in many bags of groceries for our Thanksgiving feast tomorrow. I smiled as I hauled the heavy bags in, thanking God that we had the money to buy all of this wonderful food to feed our family. I feel blessed to be able to spend the whole day cooking, then sharing and eating the meal.

    Sometimes thankfulness is as simple as that!

    I have big things to be grateful for, too. I have dealt with breast cancer this year, and I am healthy again! I am a survivor! My husband is working after months of being laid off. My family is all together for the holidays. There's nothing better than that!

    I read with interest the idea of our "happiness point", and that we return to a certain set point even after major setbacks. For many months, my world seemed veiled by the pain, fatigue and sadness that I felt. I am now feeling whole and well again, and I have returned to my set "happiness point" which, I am happy to say, is quite high!

    All praise to God our Father! Thanksgiving Blessings to you and all whom you love.

  18. Rachel, I so appreciate your thoughts and research on gratitude! I am not much of a science mind (that's hubby's gift) but it is interesting to take note.

    I always remember Julia Roberts saying something that has really stuck with me for many years as truth. She said once when an interviewer told her she was a very thoughtful person:
    "I don't know if I am thoughtful, but I know I am thankful. I think thankful people are thoughtful people." I so agree with that. Thoughtful people are thankful people. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Oh -- I am going to make some of the candles with coffee beans! Wishing you had a scratch-n-sniff blog screen! :)


  19. Rachel, the timing of of your devotional...I'm in awe of God! Thank you for your inspirational devotion.

    Give thanks to God from all blessings flow.

    May God continue to bless this ministry.

  20. Man-made distinctions when God gives none. It is HIS will. Period. I had more struggles trying to determine if I were in God's "perfect" will or if this were just His "permissive" will than when I relinquished all my control and accepted it is ALL His, according to His plan for my sanctification.

    Blessings on your journey. May you find peace in ALL things. Happy Thanksgiving.

  21. I'm thankful for grace, love and good friends.

  22. Letting go is a difficult life lesson. We tend to want to control things. We want to know what is going to happen next, and we forget that we do not have the whole picture. What we see is a limited edition. God sees all and is all knowing, we are not. With our limitations,we make mistakes in judgement, and our knowledge of the facts may be tainted by our desire for a particular outcome.

    As we grow older we learn to lean more on prayer than our ability to manage situations. More and more things happen that we cannot control As our children grow older, and leve the nest, we have to rely on what kind of people they are, and with God's grace trust that they will be good stewards of His blessings. Then it comes home to us in a very real way that that is what we are, stewards of His blessings.

    Thanks for the reminder, I don't journal, but have found that creative activities destroy our need to control everything. We gain satisfaction from what we have accomplished in our own small way.

    Bless you!

  23. Rachael,

    I just subscribed to your site and am really appreciative of your thoughts, insights and your passion for Christ. Thanks for taking the time and effort to share with us. It means a lot to me. Thanks. Very sincerely, Fred Rogers

  24. Give thanks to God from whom all blessings flow.

  25. Hi Rachel,
    Thank you for your post today - for years I have been using the line Have an attitude of gratitude! I am thankful for a wonderful Thanksgiving and all the blessing the good Lord has bestowed!
    Praying that everyone reflects on the true reason for the season!

  26. I am thankful for the freedom to worship, to share with others the Gospel of Christ, and of world missionaries whom spread The Gospel throughout the world.

  27. Rachel, Are you the one who wrote the devotional last year about a gratitude journal? If so, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!! I began mine Nov.24th last year - it has been a tremendous experience in many ways! My husband died Feb. 17th and it has been precious to me to reread the entried about the things I was thankful about regarding him! My journal, along with reading Jesus Calling daily, has had a wonderful impact on my life! I just wanted to let you know how important the Proverbs 31 Devotionals are - thank you!

  28. Hi nana41,

    Yes, that was me last year. I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, but so glad to hear of the blessing the gratitude journal was in helping you through this difficult time.

    God is good - and I pray He cradles you through this first Christmas without your spouse. I'll be writing your testimony in my own gratitude jounral.

    Sweet Blessings ~ Rachel


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