How can I sing praises when things are so bad?
“It is not happy people who are thankful; it is thankful people who are happy.”
The scientific evidence is conclusive when it comes to mood, outlook, and health. Happy people live 7–10 years longer than unhappy people. Additionally, optimistic people have a 77% lower risk of heart disease than pessimistic people. But how can you be happier and more optimistic in the world we live in today?
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” we are often told. And while it can be hard to avoid self-pity entirely, mentally strong people choose to exchange self-pity for gratitude.
Gratitude is more than just an adjective. It is a habit and practice that may actually change your perception of well-being. We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Rather than complain about the things we think we deserve, we should take a few moments to focus on all that we have. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.
“Gratitude is good medicine,” says Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and author of The Little Book of Gratitude.
“Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life. …”
It appears that being grateful is the gift that seriously keeps on giving.
Here’s a simple way to get started:
Write these down before you go to bed or share them around the dinner table. In five minutes, you can practice gratitude from the heart.
- Health: What did your body do for you today?
Did you know you take about eight million breaths a year? Your feet can take you up a mountain; your arms can hold someone you love. Take a minute to marvel at the finely-tuned machinery of your body, and be thankful for the steps you take every day to keep it safe and healthy.
- Eat: What did you feed your body to nourish yourself today?
Was it an old favorite, something you made or something new and different? If you eat three meals a day, you’ll eat about a thousand meals this year! Take a minute to savor something especially yummy.
- Activity: What did you do that you really enjoyed today?
Did you give it your all when exercising, did you finally finish that craft project you started a while ago or did you find a quiet moment while sitting in traffic to reflect? Take a minute to think back on one particularly awesome moment.
- Relationship: To whom do you look forward to connecting with?
Is it someone who always has a smile for you, has your back or makes you laugh until you cry, or maybe someone you haven’t seen in a long time? Take a minute to smile as you think about this special person.
- Time: What are you doing right now?
Every single day you wake up with 24 brand new hours. The past is history, the future is a mystery and today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present! Take a minute to be thankful for the gift of time.
As God’s children, we will want to appreciate the gifts that He has given to us. Daily we will express our gratitude to Him.
“Gratitude, rejoicing, benevolence, trust in God’s love and care—these are health’s greatest safeguard.
“The power of the will and the importance of self-control, both in the preservation and in the recovery of health, the depressing and even ruinous effect of anger, discontent, selfishness, or impurity, and, on the other hand, the marvelous life-giving power to be found in cheerfulness, unselfishness, gratitude, should also be shown.
“There is a physiological truth—truth that we need to consider—in the scripture, ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.’ Proverbs 17:22
“The true principles of Christianity open before all a source of inestimable happiness.
“We should encourage a cheerful, hopeful, peaceful frame of mind; for our health depends upon our so doing.” My Life Today, 151
Sources: heart.org; perfectmadness.com/blog/not-happy-people-thankful-thankful-people-happy; Powerofpositivity.com and Psychology Today. Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.
Judy Rebarchek is a member of the LandMarks team. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org