Thanksgiving is a unique holiday, where we intentionally slow our lives for a day (or a long weekend) by taking time to gather the people we love around us and focus on feelings of gratitude. I am thankful to have such a holiday to remind us both to slow down and to be grateful. The unfortunate truth is that life can get so busy, so stressful and hectic that, although we cognitively know there is much to be grateful for, we don’t spare the time to really feel it. This is sad and unhealthy. Just as we eat fast food when we shouldn’t because we are on the run and that’s all we have time for, we tend to be remiss in taking the time to feel gratitude because we are in too much of a rush. We know we should take a moment to be thankful, but we rarely spare even a few minutes.
Research has proven that being grateful comes with tremendous health benefits. It improves our psychological and physical well-being and can have a remarkably positive effect on relationships with those around us. PRACTICING gratitude can actually rewire our brains and be life-changing. “Practicing” is a key word. Gratitude isn’t something we just “are,” it’s something we can and should practice as often as possible because of the power it contains. In her article, “Practice Being Grateful and Reap the Benefits” Carla Clark, Ph.D. references a study done where the participants kept a daily gratitude journal for two weeks. The results were substantially increased self-esteem and being optimistic about the future. Participants reported better sleep, less health issues and increased alertness. Clark shares, “Experiencing gratitude can also have a profound effect on our memories. Gratitude practice has shown not only to increase the recall of positive memories, having a dash of gratitude when recalling unpleasant memories can help us better emotionally process the negative events, thus bringing emotional closure to these incidents.” The list of benefits from taking the time to be grateful every day is long and impressive.
With the extended list of benefits and improvement to life from practicing gratitude, on this Thanksgiving Day I would like to give you encouragement to live as if it’s Thanksgiving every day. This can be as simple as keeping a gratitude journal where you write all that you are thankful for, from what God gave you that day. While you join in the jubilant fray of shopping that launches the day after Thanksgiving, put a journal on your wish list and give it to yourself as an early Christmas present. Start now to write a little each day of the things you are grateful for, recognizing the simplest beauties in life that could easily be overlooked when you don’t take the time to jot them down, and then just see how much it changes your perspective and your life!
Another important way to engage in the daily practice of Thanksgiving is to take the time to pray and express to God directly what you are grateful for. Along with voicing gratitude, prayer is something that we often speed through or completely forget in the rush of life. Taking the time to thank God, giving careful thought to what you thank Him for, will not only be life-changing, but also bring even more blessings as God loves a grateful heart. “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!” Psalm 50:23
Wayne L. Mack, Author of The Directed Path: Using God’s Compass