Who would have thought that a simple ’thank you’ is worthy of a scientific study?
Robert Emmons, Ph.D., and professor at the University of California, Davis, has written the first major scientific study on gratitude – its causes, and potential impact on human health. Published findings from his studies have shown that a conscious focus on blessings improved moods, coping skills and overall physical well-being.
Emmons says, ‘Gratitude is one of the few things that can measurably heal, energize and change people’s lives. It is a turning of the mind, not what I don’t have, but what I have already.’
As Canadians head into their Thanksgiving holiday, many will gather around a family table and acknowledge their blessings. Still, for many, there will be a ‘but’ after the ‘thank you’. It sounds like this: ‘Thanks, BUT I really need a bigger house, more friends, that promotion,’ etc.
Ingratitude blocks the ability to see what we already have. Inspiration from a well-used guidebook in my life asks the question: ‘Are we really grateful for the good already received?’ And follows with the promise: ‘Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more.’
It’s clear that being satisfied with what we have is crucial to our well-being. That’s not always easy.
And, it might help if we take a look at the source of the good in our lives and how understanding and acknowledging that – regularly – can result in blessings that might at first seem impossible.
A well-known historical example of what gratitude – right in the midst of what looked like real lack – produces is when Jesus was faced with
feeding a crowd of thousands. His disciples saw that they did not have enough to satisfy their needs. He did not see it as lack; he saw it as a misperception of the fact that God – not the sea or the land – provides everything we need. In his view, since God is infinite, there could be no limit to His provision for the crowd. He expressed gratitude for what they had before he instructed that the crowd be fed. They were satisfied – and even took home leftovers!
If true satisfaction comes from an understanding that the good in our life has a constant source in the Divine, then we can and should acknowledge ongoing, infinite good even when the evidence is not immediately apparent.
My friend, Carol, confirmed Emmons’ findings on how a conscious focus on blessings can improve health. She told me of a time when everyone around her had all the symptoms of the ‘flu’. She awoke one morning with similar symptoms, but immediately started going over everything she had to be grateful for and acknowledging the ever-present, Divine source of all good in her life. She could see that since sickness isn’t good, it isn’t from, or of, God. So, she could refuse to let it have any effect on her well-being. Very quickly, she felt totally well and energized, and went about her day.
Gratitude unlocks the door to understanding that the good in our lives has a constant source in the Divine. Little wonder it leads to better health.
Wishing my Canadian readers a cornucopia of Thanksgiving blessings!
This article was published in several Metroland online media outlets, such as Inside Ottawa Valley