Being Intentionally Grateful

Today’s blog focuses on gratitude and thanksgiving and is taken from my book, The Power of a Humble Life.

If you are truly going to cultivate a grateful heart, you are going to have to be intentional about it. It is something you have to plan to do every day. Author Henri Nouwen said,

In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.

Every morning I spend the first ten to fifteen minutes of the day giving thanks to God. I start by acknowledging all that I am and all that I have is a gift from Him and that I am grateful. I thank Him for the gift of life and for a new day. I thank Him for my health and for keeping me in this life (Psalm 66:9). I thank Him for my wife and our life together as well as for our three children. I thank Him for the other relationships He has blessed me with. I thank Him for our home and the financial resources He has provided us. I thank Him for the work He has called me to do and also the talents and abilities he has blessed me with. I give thanks for all the spiritual blessings of life (Ephesians 1:3). Finally, I end by thanking Him for the incredible difference He has made in my life. Where would I be without Him?

I am convinced thanking God has made such a difference in my life. Over time I have found that it leads me to give thanks throughout the day as I recognize His good hand in all that I do. I have come to realize this not only pleases Him, but it has also transformed my life.

This should not be surprising when you consider the research of Dr. Hans Selye, an Austrian-Canadian endocrinologist who died in 1982. Selye was among the first scientists to discover the impact that emotions play on a person’s health. Over his life he wrote thirty books on the subject of stress and human emotion. At the end of his life, he summarized his research and concluded that a heart of gratitude is the single most nourishing response that leads to good health. Selye believed that thanksgiving and gratitude are therapy for the soul, and that a healthy soul is beneficial to physical health.

As I was doing research on thanksgiving and gratitude, I discovered two recent articles that presented sound arguments on how gratitude has such a powerful impact on our lives. The first article was from Psychology Today and was entitled, “How Gratitude Influences Loving Behavior.” The second was from The Wall Street Journal and was entitled, “Thanksgiving and Gratitude: The Science of Happier Holidays.” The authors of each of these pieces relied on scientific research to come to their conclusions. What we learn from them is:

  1. Gratitude is the foundation of satisfying relationships. There is nothing more deadly than when people in a love relationship feel taken for granted.
  2. Gratitude expresses appreciation. Human interaction flourishes when people feel appreciated.
  3. People who are the most materialistic in our culture are very ungrateful and extremely unhappy. The relationship between materialism and gratitude run in the opposite direction. Ungrateful people are clearly unhappy people.
  4. Gratitude acknowledges all the great benefits of life and enables us to savor all that is good in our lives.
  5. Finally, and it should come as no surprise, a thankful heart is associated with a number of positive health benefits. Grateful people have stronger immune systems, report fewer symptoms of illness, and enjoy a better quality of sleep. They are also less reactive to stressful events.

Thanksgiving begins with the recognition of who really deserves the credit and glory for what we do. It is most pleasing to God, but it also does something to us. It is life-giving and transformative. Gratitude is where the path of humility begins


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