STANDING IN LINE at the checkout counter of a local craft store, I happened to notice the couple behind me, primarily because
both of them had their arms overloaded with baskets.
When I commented that it was a good day to take advantage of the special price on baskets, the man replied, “Oh, we always buy
our supply of baskets this time of year, and what you see is only a portion of what we need.”
The lady explained that at the end of each year they traditionally filled baskets with food and presents for their employees in appreciation for their hours of loyal service to the company.
He added, “Then we personally deliver the baskets to each employee’s home.”
Gratitude is “the quality of being thankful, a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness” (www.dictionary.com).
As children, one of the first things we are taught is to say “thank you” for the nice things people do. It’s an inherent human tendency, even from a young age, to feel entitled to the attention and favors of those around us. Learning to say thank you is the beginning point for actually feeling thankful and grateful. As parents explain to their children why they should express gratitude, such as,
“Say thank you to Grandpa for the fun you had with him at the park,” children begin to associate happiness and success with gratefulness.
Ingratitude is one of the most disliked human characteristics and can cause permanent rifts in relationships, as well as discourage further acts of kindness. Gratitude, on the other hand, is a highly desirable quality that can make life more pleasant for everyone. Research shows that an attitude of gratitude can have overall health benefits, such as:
“Reflect on your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens
• Lowering blood pressure and heart rate
• Promoting more restful sleep
• Reducing cholesterol
• Lessening aches and pains
• Improving immune response
• Contributing to longevity
• Creating happier relationships
• Improving ability to focus on happy memories
• Encouraging a more optimistic outlook
• Improving self-image and self-care
• Enhancing thinking and decision-making skills
• Impacting one’s career positively
• Promoting deeper spirituality
WHERE DOES THE TIME GO?
As we grow older our lives become more and more busy. It seems we have no time beyond caring for daily demands and responsibilities. We tend to spend needless mental effort trying to make sense of things that go wrong—our failures, missed opportunities, challenges with relationships, responses to change, crises, and uncertainties about the future. How does one fit
gratitude into such a stressful existence?
Begin a gratitude journal. Take a few minutes to jot down just one positive event of the day—a meaningful moment with a family member, friend, or co-worker; a pleasant surprise (no matter how small); a problem solved; or an instance of encouragement.
Thinking about even just one blessing can encourage the awareness of another, and another, thus spiraling the mood upward toward calmness and joy. Stress, with all its harmful health risks, is lessened. Cognitive problem solving improves due to a more balanced emotional outlook. And gratitude, especially in the aftermath of a crisis, greatly improves recovery and resilience.
REMEMBER TO SAY “THANK YOU”
Long ago 10 men found themselves suddenly healed of leprosy as they headed to the temple to be examined by the priest. We happily applaud the one who turned back to find Jesus, falling at His feet with praise and thanks. For such an amazing miracle, we agree that thanks were certainly merited. Ordinarily, that may be our only thought about the incident. However, as with all
Bible stories, this brief account carries important concepts if we examine a bit more deeply.
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” William A.Ward
1. Nothing good comes to us by chance. We daily experience encouragement, uplifting, and blessings by people in our lives.
Add special moments, such as the glory of a beautiful sunset, healing from illness, safety in the midst of danger, peace in chaos, and
answers to prayer, and we have a clear picture of a loving Heavenly Father who purposely and graciously orchestrates circumstances to aid and brighten life’s journey. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the
heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV).
2. Gratitude needs to be expressed. Studies show that people who feel appreciated and valued by a family member, supervisor, friend, or coworker are often willing to go the extra mile for that person. By the same token, heaven responds to our expressions of gratitude by strengthening our faith to receive even more gifts from God, including joy and peace. “The soul that responds to the grace of God shall be like a watered garden. His health shall spring forth speedily; his light shall rise in obscurity, and the glory of the Lord shall be seen upon him” (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 348). Ingratitude closes the mind to recognizing and being blessed by heaven’s multitude of gifts.
Gratitude has a lot going for it. It means noticing with thankfulness life’s simple pleasures. It means shifting the focus from
what our lives lack to being aware of how much we have. An attitude of gratitude has the potential to grow the more we express
our thankfulness in word and deed, both to those around us and to God, who is the Giver of all good gifts. By habitually
engaging in the gratitude habit, we can become happier, more resilient, healthier, and overall more pleasant people to be
1. Amy Newmark and Deborah Norville, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Gratitude: 101 Stories about How Being Thankful Can Change Your Life.
2. Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 348.