An article in Psychology Today listed seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude:
- It opens the door to more relationships.
- It improves physical health,
- Gratitude Improves psychological health.
- It enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
- Grateful people sleep better.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem.
- It increases mental strength.
I know all the above, yet I often pass up opportunities to practice appreciation and have had the same feeling one of our grandsons shared after opening Christmas presents several years ago.
He sat amid the shreds of red and green wrapping paper looking forlornly at a pile of age appropriate and unnecessary gifts. Feeling concerned I asked, “Didn’t you like the things you got?”
He replied, “Yes, but I was hoping for more.”
It was an honest answer and I understood because the Christmas of my fourteenth year left me with the same adolescent disappointment. There were so many things I wanted and so few gifts at hand. My ingratitude reflected my immaturity.
I’m not sure when I began seeing the glass half full rather than half empty, but I know Mother was an agent for that change. She recognized a blessing and was quick to point it out. Our trips back and forth from my grandmother’s house were full of oohs and aahs over every pastoral scene down HWY 45 South even though we’d made that trip hundreds of times. As a child of the Depression, she could have easily become bitter and negative, but she intentionally chose gratitude.
When our beautiful baby boy arrived with severe mental and physical challenges, he became my gratitude guide. Though I was a reluctant participant at first, his gleeful shrieks and unfailing persistence made me realize how much most of us take for granted. We were grateful for any hard won achievement no matter how small or how long it took to accomplish.
When he was three he woke us in the night humming Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. No words, just a perfect melody. The next Christmas Mother gave him his first of many radios that became his lifeline.
He has quite a repertoire. He will hum a few bars of one of his favorite songs then stop and wait for someone to finish the tune. It’s our version of Name That Tune most often played when we’re traveling. Recently his first request was Jingle Bells. My Bass Singer and I immediately identified that tune and commenced a hearty rendition. It pleased Matt and when we finished he followed with Jesus Loves Me.
As we responded to that lovely song, a little blessing was revealed in the form of a sweet spirit of gratitude, laughter and joy. I didn’t “hope for more’. This was more than I deserved.
In her journal Mother wrote, ”The only genuine source of happiness is God, and we receive lasting joy only through expressing gratitude to Him. Seek God and live as he directs you and true joy will soon follow.”
Making gratitude a daily practice confers a whole host of health benefits from improved immune systems, to feelings of connectedness. I just have to take regular doses.