One landmark study by Emmons and McCullough found that people consciously giving thanks regularly we're less materialistic, more willing to give, less envious, less anxious, and more willing to help others.
I'd like to be less focused on what I own, or don't have. I'd like to feel more content, and less entitled or shortchanged. I'd like to be more generous. I'd like to be less frustrated with interruptions from people - like my children for instance - wanting my help. Wouldn't you?
And that's not even half of the list of benefits these researchers found among those who began giving thanks daily. Check out the rest of the list:
- They were more optimistic.
- They were more energetic.
- They were healthier - getting sick less often.
- They were more joyful.
- They slept more.
- They exercised more.
- They felt more confident in their ability to handle challenges.
- They were less prone to clutter.
- They were more determined.
- They were perceived more favorably by others.
- They made more progress towards important personal goals.
I'm guessing this list looks a lot like the lists of New Year's Resolutions you've drawn up over the years. It sure looks a lot like my lists looked (before I shifted to My One Word).
From all I have studied on this topic, and experienced myself, gratitude is a powerful thing. It's a spiritual discipline to be fiercely thankful. I suspect it's a marker of spiritual maturity as well.
And yet all too often we imagine gratitude is a nice, but trite concept. A good idea - who would disagree with being more grateful - but a little too simplistic for today's world. And we don't make the effort to cultivate or maintain it ... preferring instead for God or life to continually WOW us and make us feel (momentarily) happy and appreciative.
I know I'm guilty of that. Of wanting my circumstances to continually be so great that I can remain grateful, rather than remaining grateful no matter my situation.
"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thess 5:16-17
That same verse in The Message says: "Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live."
Let me remind you about a chance to proclaim the goodness of God's love in your life -- the devotional carnival I'll be hosting here on Monday. Follow that link for details. Then grab some cocoa, sit down and write today. And don't worry if all your commas are in the right places or even if all your verbs are strong. Just write from your heart about love. And we'll love you on Monday just as you are - comma splices and all. :)
Thankful God has built benefit into following His commands.