In our family, I’ve been partial to the Thanksgiving craft of hand-made turkeys. You know, where you trace your around your hand on a sheet of construction paper and cut out the pattern to form a turkey? We don’t do this every single year – my family would object: “Oh MOM!” But from time to time we’ve returned to this trendless tradition, most recently adding an assignment: Name five things for which you are thankful – and share them around the table. One for each finger/feather.
In some years the thanks flow. ThankFULLness. We burst with gratitude! A wedding is in the works. A fabulous job. Vacation just around the corner.
In others, someone – or everyone - is somberly silent. Not so sure what we’re thankful for.
The family is broken. The home is foreclosed. The job is cut. The significant other is suddenly not so significant. The country is going places we don’t want to go. And the world as well.
Hard, I know. But honestly – can’t we all come up with five things we’re thankful for if we stop to really consider? We’re breathing. We know a baby. We slept through the night. A golden-brown turkey awaits our gobbling. We have a roof over our heads. Anne Lamott observes the grace-giving mantra around the heavy-laden table, “For a minute, our stations are tuned to a broader, richer radius. We’re acknowledging that this food didn’t just magically appear: Someone grew it, ground it, bought it, baked it; wow.” (1)
Can’t we? Get our grateful going? Because gratitude changes us. And it changes others around us.
Giving thanks has a way of changing the way we look at life. It actually makes us happier. There are multiple studies that reveal this finding. Robert Emmons’ study divided people into three groups that each made weekly entries in journals. One group wrote five things they were grateful for. One described five daily hassles. And a control group listed five events that had impacted them in a small way. Those in the gratitude group felt better about their lives overall, were more optimistic about the future, and reported fewer health problems. (2)
Another sets of studies discovered 31 ways gratitude can change our lives:
Makes us happier.
Makes people like us.
Makes us healthier.
Boosts our career.
Strengthens our emotions.
Develops our personalities.
Makes us more optimistic.
Makes us less self-centered.
Increases our self-esteem.
Improves our sleep.
Keeps us away from the doctor.
Let’s us live longer.
Increases our energy level.
Makes us more likely to exercise.
Helps us bounce back.
Makes us feel good.
Makes our memories happier.
Reduces feelings of envy.
Helps us relax.
Makes us friendlier.
Helps our marriages.
Makes us look good.
Helps us make friends.
Makes us more effective managers.
Helps us network.
Increases our goal achievement.
Improves our decision making.
Increases our productivity. (3)
As a result of the study, five habits were suggested:
Keep a daily gratitude journal
Use visual reminders
Have a gratitude partner
Make a public commitment
Change your self-talk (4)
And then … there’s God as well. When we grab onto gratitude, God joins us in our everyday living in unique ways. Before nations decided that having a day of Thanksgiving was a good idea, God set that rhythm for his people, instructing them to remember and give thanks. It is a rhythm we find throughout Scripture, and one that actually makes a difference in our lives today.
What say you dear one? This year, let’s get our gratitude going? And let’s see where our good God fills us up with gifts for us – and for those who live along side us?
Elisa Morgan's newest book, Hello, Beauty Full, is now available. Read it for your own growth, or share it in a group study. There are discussion questions and teaching videos available. Elisa is the cohost of Discover the Word and a regular speaker at events around the country.
1. Anne Lamott, "Counting Our Blessings," Parade, November 11, 2012, p. 24. (Excerpted from Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers).