Gratitude Is A Muscle. Exercise It.


God continually admonishes us to give thanks.  God loves us so much, and he wants us to experience the peace and the joy that come from a grateful heart.

As a health reporter, it always brings a smile to my face when science catches-up to the Bible.  It’s fun when research proves that behaviors dictated by God are good for our health.

For instance, over and over again in scripture, we are told not to worry.  Now scientists tells us that worry is equivalent to stress, which is a killer. In fact, the more researchers examine the effects of stress on the body, the more they realize how deadly it is. Jesus told us not to worry, but instead to seek first the kingdom of God and everything will work out fine. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We’re told in the word of God not to worry.  We are also told to give thanks.  The verse above from Philippians points out that even when we ask God to meet our needs we should remember how much He’s done for us already. Psalm 100:4 states “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 1 Chronicles 16:34 reminds us to, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

In his book, The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan, neurologist David Perlmutter incorporates the practice of giving thanks into his program to strengthen the brain.  He points out that the more we dwell on gratitude, the more we will feel it.  In other words, gratitude, like to many other virtues, such as self-discipline, increases the more you practice it.  This is great news because if you recognize that you focus on what you lack more than your blessings, that can change.

Dr. Perlmutter references a 2015 Indiana University study of people who were being treated for depression and/or anxiety.  Half of the participants engaged in gratitude exercises, consisting of writing thank-you letters to people in their lives for an hour a week, the other half did not.  MRI scans showed increased brain activity in the people who practiced gratitude, particularly in areas of the brain that are not normally associated with emotions. This improved brain function lasted for months. Furthermore, all the participants were tested for generosity, and it turned out the grateful people were the most generous.

In the words of the study’s authors, “You could even think of your brain as having a sort of gratitude ‘muscle’ that can be exercised and strengthened (not so different from various other qualities that can be cultivated through practice, of course).  If this is right, the more of an effort you make to feel gratitude one day, the more the feeling will come to you spontaneously in the future.”

Dr. Perlmutter says one of the easiest ways to practice gratitude is to keep a “Gratitude Journal.”  He suggests starting out by spending just two minutes at the close of the day writing down the things for which you feel grateful.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss, author of Choosing Gratitude,  says she took a step back, looked at the big picture, and confessed to God, “You don’t owe me anything good.”

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SOURCE: CBN News – Lorie Johnson