Science Proves the Benefits of Being Thankful



Well it’s taken a few thousand years, but neuroscience has figured out the reason for the biblical mandate to be thankful.

According to a study by psychologists Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis and Dr. Michael McCullough of the University of Miami those that practiced gratitude reported feeling more optimistic and positive about their lives.

One third of the subjects in the study were asked to keep a daily journal of things that happened during the week for which they were grateful. Another third was asked to write down daily irritations or events that had displeased them. The last third of the group was asked to write down daily situations and events with no emphasis on either positive or negative emotional attachment. At the end of the 10-week study, each group was asked to record how they felt physically and generally about life.

The gratitude group reported feeling more optimistic and positive about their lives than the other groups. In addition, the gratitude group was more physically active and reported fewer visits to a doctor than those who wrote only about their negative experiences.

The Bible was well ahead of the studies. In scripture we read, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

And, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. “ Colossians 3:15 (NASB)

I’ve witnessed the benefits of those acting on this command in my own practice. People that struggle with anxiety and depression will often have an unintended focus on everything that is wrong with their lives, and the people around them. This influences their outlook and impacts the behaviors they exhibit going forward, months and years into the future.

When we choose to ruminate on the negative, we are making decisions in a defensive mode, anticipating negative results. The thankful mind is more optimistic and takes more risks, anticipating a positive outcome. As I’ve often said, “People do what they believe.”

I believe God was protecting us from our own dark thoughts. When I ask my clients to journal, I don’t have them write down all the negatives, but journal the blessings that God has done in their lives; giving them a reference for more blessings to come in the future.

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