The Perspective - Changing Power of Gratitude

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful
in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you
who belong to Christ Jesus.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

“…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
(Romans 12:2)
I’ve been reading The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale lately. It’s one of those classic books that has sold millions of copies, but for some reason I haven’t gotten around to reading it until now. Probably because the title kind of put me off, but I'm actually really enjoying it!

One of the things that has struck me about this book is how many medical professionals the author has spoken to that link physical illness to broken thinking. One doctor he spoke to (Dr. Franklin Ebaugh) said the makeup of illness at hospitals was roughly as follows:
  • 1/3 was organic (something physically wrong)
  • 1/3 was part organic, part emotional
  • 1/3 was purely emotional

In one clinic with 500 patients, 386 (77%) were found to be ill from unhealthy mental states.

But what exactly is an unhealthy mental state?

Anything negative.

I know, that’s pretty broad. But as the saying goes - garbage in, garbage out. Nothing is neutral. If you find yourself in a rough place emotionally, consider your inputs. What have you been feeding on? And what affect has that had on you?

This is a big reason why l limit my exposure to Facebook and I intentionally don’t keep up with much news. If something is really important, it’ll find its way to me. If not, I’ll focus on what I can control and not worry about the rest. It’s easier for me not to feed on it if I don’t even see it in the first place.

But what do you do if you can’t escape a negative environment? What if your boss is the source of your negativity, or a close family member?

In those situations, the best thing you can do is practice gratitude.

Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of Psychology at UC Davis, is considered by many to be the world’s leading expert on gratitude. In his book, Thanks, he says that practicing gratitude can make you up to 25% happier. There are many other physical and emotional benefits , including reduced stress, lower blood pressure, better sleep, and reduced risk of depression. Practicing gratitude can even slow down the body’s natural aging process!

The crazy thing (at least to me) about gratitude is that the specifics of your situation don't actually matter. It’s an internal perspective change. You don’t deny that undesirable circumstances exist, you just choose not to focus on them. Instead of highlighting all the things that are going wrong, you find the things are going well.

There’s lots of different ways to practice gratitude. One way is simply to keep a gratitude journal. I have done this on and off over the years myself, forcing myself every day to answer the question, What am I grateful for? It could be a conversation I had with a friend, the beautiful weather for a long walk, or something silly one of my kids or grandkids said.

Another idea might be to practice gratitude during a weekly date night with your mate or significant other. End the date by verbally expressing gratitude for something the other person has done during the last week.

A curious thing about verbal gratitude: I’ve noticed that verbalizing gratitude towards someone instantly dissolves any anger I may feel towards them. No one can make you madder than your spouse can (😂)  but the minute you force yourself to find something positive and verbalize it, all those negative feelings instantly dissolve. I dare you to try it! I have found it impossible to stay upset while expressing gratitude.

With Thanksgiving coming up later this month here in the US, many of you will be getting together with family members. And for some of you, that may be a little stressful. But I challenge you not to let it get under your skin. You have the ability to change your perspective, and practicing gratitude is one great way to do it.

I’m thankful for each one of you!

Pastor David

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