And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15.
As it turns out, being grateful is good for you.
A review of social science research in the Wall Street Journal finds that being thankful is related to psychological, emotional and even physical health.
Grateful people, in fact, have more energy, more optimism and more friends. They also make more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and fight off viruses more successfully.
And that’s just the adults. Grateful kids make better grades and set higher goals. They are also less materialistic.
These associations could be like the chicken and the egg. Maybe these people have better lives already, and more to be thankful. But some studies of counting your blessings have tested people before and after times when they were intentional about it.
For example, a group of people who wrote down five things they were thankful for each week for ten weeks were less likely to report physical complaints, like headaches, than before the study, while those who wrote down five things that annoyed them each week were more likely to do so.
This is understandable. A grateful heart is a joyful heart, and the book of Proverbs says, “ A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22 ESV).
The benefits of gratitude are real and increasingly well documented. Studies of people who counted their blessings in the aftermath of 9-11 or Hurricane Katrina, for example, were less susceptible to depression and more resilient.
The relationship between gratitude and well-being is simple to understand but difficult to apply. As Robert Emmons, a pioneer in gratitude research at the University of California-Davis, says, it requires “self-reflection, the ability to admit that one is dependent on the help of others, and the humility to realize one’s own limitations.”
This humility and dependence explains the praise that result from any thoughtful response to the gospel itself. Anyone who bows before the throne of grace rises with thanksgiving, no holiday required.
But any gratitude is a response to some grace. And even though the benefits that accrue to a grateful heart are not absolute, they should resonate with more gratitude still. And with more dependence and humility as well.
In the end, gratitude is both cause and effect.
So say thanks and be well.