Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Two kinds of gratitude… one brings real peace!

A few years ago, university psychologists conducted a research project on gratitude and thanksgiving. They divided participants into three groups. People in the first group practiced daily exercises like writing in a gratitude journal. They reported higher levels of alertness, determination, optimism, energy, and less depression and stress than the control group. Not surprisingly, they were also a lot happier than the participants who were told to keep an account of all the bad things that happened each day.

The benefits of gratitude are enormous and obvious; but we need to understand that there are two kinds of gratitude. American preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards identified them as Natural Gratitude and Gracious Gratitude.

Natural Gratitude, as its name implies, flows out of us effortlessly when good things happen to us. It could be something big like receiving an inheritance or as small as someone letting you go ahead of them in the checkout lane. But there’s nothing very hard or difficult about it.

Gracious Gratitude can be more challenging because it’s the gratitude we express for God and His goodness even when we are surrounded by difficult circumstances. It’s rejoicing in God’s character and love for us when the health report is negative, the bills outweigh the checkbook or a family member dies unexpectedly.

This gracious gratitude for who God is also goes to the heart of who we are in Christ. It is relational, rather than conditional. Even though our world may shatter, we are secure in Him. The source of our joy, the love of the God who made us and saved us, cannot be hindered by any power that exists (Romans 8:28-39). People who are filled with such radical gratitude are unstoppable, irrepressible, overflowing with what C. S. Lewis called “the good infection” – the supernatural, refreshing love of God that draws others to Him. The peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:7).

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit! ~ Romans 5:3-5 (The Message)

We need to be more intentional about Gracious Gratitude!

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Filed under Faith, Gratitude, influence with the world, Peace, Thankfulness, Trusting God

More evidence!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, His love endures forever.
~ Psalm 136:1

Yesterday I blogged about the health benefits of giving thanks or expressing gratitude. Here’s a bit more for your consideration…

Grateful people have more positive ways of coping with the difficulties they experience in life, being more likely to:

  • seek support from other people,
  • reinterpret and grow from the experience,
  • and spend more time planning how to deal with the problem.

Grateful people also have less negative coping strategies, being less likely to:

  • try to avoid the problem,
  • deny there is a problem,
  • blame themselves, or
  • cope through substance use.

Grateful people even sleep better, most likely because they think less negative and more positive thoughts just before going to sleep. (Kittens must be very grateful!)

In one study concerning gratitude, participants were randomly assigned to one of six therapeutic intervention conditions designed to improve the participant’s overall quality of life. Out of these conditions, it was found that the biggest short-term effects came from a “gratitude visit” where participants wrote and delivered a letter of gratitude to someone in their life. This condition showed a rise in happiness scores by 10 percent and a significant fall in depression scores, results which lasted up to one month after the visit.

Out of the six conditions, the longest lasting effects were caused by the act of writing “gratitude journals” where participants were asked to write down three things they were grateful for every day. These participants’ happiness scores also increased and continued to increase each time they were tested periodically after the experiment.

In fact, the greatest benefits were usually found to occur around six months after treatment began. This exercise was so successful that although participants were only asked to continue the journal for a week, many participants continued to keep the journal long after the study was over.

Why not try a “gratitude visit” or “gratitude journal” this week?

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Filed under Gratitude, Life in General, Thankfulness