Thanksgiving: It’s a Matter of Perspective

A past family thanksgiving photo reveals a giant turkey with Brent’s mom and brother (we sure miss you, Jess). The bird was a only a 13 pounder,  yet it looks like it weighed 25 pounds!  Perspective can be deceptive!

This turkey confusion is not unlike our human ability to make a mountain out of a molehill and see our life issues from a negative perspective. There’s nothing like a paradigm shift toward gratitude to help our health and well-being. Studies show that the practice of gratitude has a variety of benefits.  Dr. Robert Emmons of University of California, Davis, runs a research lab dedicated to the study of gratitude and thanksgiving.

“Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress,” Emmons says.  “So much of gratitude is about one’s perspective and framework for looking at the world and at self. People who tend to be more mindful of the benefits they’ve received tend to focus their attention outward,” Emmons explains.

Some specific areas affected by gratitude are:

  • lower stress levels
  • higher energy and alertness
  • measureable improvements in mood – more positive emotions and optimism
  • lower levels of depression
  • fewer headaches and colds
  • better physiological health (heart rhythms and sleep patterns)
  • greater sense of being connected to others

People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others. They are rated as more generous and more helpful by people in their social networks (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002).

Emmons has found that grateful individuals place less importance on material goods and are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated.  They are less envious of others and are more likely to share their possessions with others relative to less grateful persons.

The bible heartily promotes gratitude and thanksgiving and mentions the word ‘thanks’ in our English translations over 100 times.  My quick research of the Hebrew and Greek words reveals that ‘thanks’ is actually much more pervasive than the surface reveals.  ‘Praise’ in many instances in the Old Testament and ‘grace’ in the New Testament find their roots in the same words otherwise translated as ‘thanks’, ‘thanksgiving’, ‘grateful’, or ‘gratitude’.

Be joyful always; pray continually;  give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good; his love endures forever.  Jeremiah 33.11

Need practical ways to increase your ‘gratitude’ factor and potentially integrate gratitude as your everyday attitude?  Stayed tuned for tomorrow when I’ll share some effective tips.

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