Taking time to look back over the past year and expressing thanks and gratitude is for most people tied to Thanksgiving and individual celebrations like ‘round’ birthdays, anniversaries, promotions and such. Then, there are those who give grace before dinner and who use the phrases ‘thanks’ and ‘thank you’ regularly throughout their daily activities, but more out of habit, or as a matter of showing the mastery of good manners.
We have all fallen into the one or the other group at some point, haven’t we? But both groups are short-cutting themselves. Here is why: The benefits of intentionally and on a daily basis practiced gratitude are immense. But that’s not all …
Benefits of Giving Thanks
Dr. Robert Emmons, world’s leading expert on gratitude and author of Thanks! How The New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, has conducted various studies on gratitude on thousands of people. According to his findings, practicing gratitude improves our health, emotions, personality, relationships and career. That’s pretty much ALL the aspects of our life. Let’s give these study results a closer look:
Health: being more energetic and more willing to exercise, increased mental strength, deeper and longer sleep, a greater overall health and even increased lifespan
Emotional: such as being more relaxed, more resilient and able to bounce back earlier, a lower risk for depression, fewer feelings of envy, resentment, self-pity, and anxiety, it brightens memories and makes us overall happier.
Personality: increased spirituality and self-esteem, being more optimistic, having a stronger focus on things that really matter in life versus on materialistic things, being more other oriented versus self-centered
Social: being more friendly and appreciative, which in return makes one more likeable and sociable, improves and deepens relationships and the marriage
Career: it improves productivity, decision-making and networking, helps to reach goals with more ease, as well as helps to make the workplace a friendlier place
Considering all these benefits, it seems obvious why the Bible puts such an emphasis on giving thanks. After all, giving thanks is mentioned 102 times in the Old Testament and 72 times in the New Testament.
Giving Thanks – And What The Bible Says
While gratitude is defined by the oxforddictionaries.com as “the quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for and return kindness”, the Bible puts giving thanks two notches up higher:
- Giving thanks is a command.
“And whatever you do, in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17
Not only do we ought to live in an attitude of gratitude, our thanks needs to be directed towards God.
- Giving thanks in all circumstances.
“… in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1. Thessalonians 5:18
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
While it is easy to give thanks for the good things that happen to us, things like gifts, promotions, achieving goals, happy moments, even a beautiful sunrise or the wonderful smell of fresh brewed coffee in the morning, God wants us also to give thanks to Him during times of challenge and hardship.
- Give thanks to God.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
This puts everything in the right perspective. While we ought to give thanks to one another for the good things we have received in whatever form, we ought to also, and first, give thanks to God as our Maker and Sustainer. This helps us to remember our state and position before God.
Since giving thanks is of such utter importance, let’s look at ways to improve our awareness and how to freshen up practicing gratitude besides saying ‘thank you’.
Ways To Practice Gratitude
There are many ways to practice gratitude. From my own experience of practicing gratitude, here are some ideas to get you started.
* Develop a fresh mindset of gratitude.
This means to have a new-look on your life, get sensitive, and to make it a daily habit to find something new to be grateful for. It is an eye-opening journey!
* Be intentional when giving thanks.
Be it towards God or towards others. Don’t just use it as a phrase. Become aware and give specific thanks. This might need a little practice, but it is worth the effort.
* Give thanks daily.
Be it before or after your meal, using a gratitude journal, acknowledging others, or praising God on the go throughout your day.
* Give thanks for the small and big things.
Oftentimes we miss out on the small things to be thankful for and the things we take for granted, like our ability to see and taste, or the incredible way our organs work together within our body. So, look for both.
* Give thanks for the (seemingly) bad things.
Instead, find good things within it or that can come out of it.
* Create a gratitude hoop.
At Thanksgiving, or at the end of year, gather or create symbols of ‘things’ you are thankful for this year and hang them via strings on a horizontal hanging hoop of wood or thick metal wire. Than hang the hoop down from the ceiling.
* Use gratitude reminders.
Wear t-shirts, wristbands, bracelets etc. with text or symbols of gratitude, and/or place reminders of gratitude around your home and office, such as give thanks wall décor.
* Write gratitude letters and notes.
Write each week or month one person a thank you note and mention specifically what you are thankful for about them.
* Go for a gratitude challenge. This is cool!
Choose a time, 7, 21, or 30 days that you will dedicate to only being thankful and positive, finding at least one thing to be thankful for in everything you do and to not let any negative emotions, gossip etc. come up. Put up a penalty jar to help you come into the mindset. Reward yourself at the end for following through.
The Bible not only shows us one side of the coin and highlights the importance of showing gratitude and what to do, it also shows the other side and tells of the consequences.
“For although they know God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
What a stark contrast to the many and incredible benefits of giving thanks. Showing gratitude to God and to one another is of the utmost matter, won’t you agree?
To help you further along, my next blog article will be on gratitude journaling and how to go about it in the best way.
Start implementing some (or better yet all) of the above ideas, and until then!