Gratitude Lesson 1: Gratitude is good for you
Albert Schweitzer was a great man. He was a theologian, musician, physician, humanitarian and writer as well as a Nobel Prize winner. He once said, “The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live. He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.” Another brilliant theologian, the apostle Paul, in I Thessalonians 5:18, would amend Schweitzer’s “for” all things to “in” all things (certainly we don’t give thanks for abuse, injustice or hurricanes). Nevertheless, they both see the same truth that gratitude is good for us. A recent book called Grateful by Diana Butler Bass summarizes the benefits of gratitude: “if we are grateful we are happier and more content.” She cites the work of gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, whose research in working with transplant recipients found that “gratitude drives out toxic emotions of resentment, anger, envy, and may be associated with long term emotional and physical health.” Another study found that gratitude resulted in a lower rate of heart disease. Still other research discovered a correlation between gratitude and lower levels of anxiety and depression, decreased panic attacks and phobias and a reduced risk of alcoholism and substance abuse (Bass, p.29). Further benefits have been discovered: including increased self esteem, enhanced will power, stronger relationships, deeper spirituality, boosted creativity, and improved athletic and academic performance. “It has a unique ability to heal, energize and change lives (p.29).” In addition a 2015 survey found that 8 in 10 Americans report feelings of deep gratitude once a week.
However, a look at the news, social media, our community and a look inside ourselves, does not seem to reflect the positive results of gratitude in large measure. Bass notes that we have a disparity between our private thanks and our public attitudes towards others.
Perhaps the problem does not rest with the gratitude research but rather with our understanding and practice of gratitude on a deeper level. So for the next four weeks I will be sharing some of what I have learned about gratitude through the years with the hope that I can take my own advice and live the abundant life that seems to come with gratitude. Perhaps you will find it helpful and “healthful” as well.