We were created to grow; our life is growth. James Allen said in his famous book As a Man Thinketh, “Man is a growth by law.”
As we’re growing from here to there, the challenge is to face two essential things.
“And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). And there’s the challenge; sow and faint not!
Are you like me and get tired and weary along the way? We hear the words of Jesus to his disciples, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak!”
So, let’s take a fresh, new look at strengthening our soul so we don’t get so weary this year.
Research reveals the secret ingredient
There’s a special ancient secret ingredient to a strong soul, and now modern scientific researchers are focused on a decade long $5.6 million dollar project to study it: gratitude.
Since the end of 2011, 14 research grants and 15 dissertation research projects have been awarded to study the role of gratitude in our lives. Assignments have included the effect of gratitude in marriage relationships, couples dealing with breast cancer, the development of children and adolescents, the neuro-pharmacological basis of gratitude and many more.
The Greater Good Science Center at the California State University (Berkeley) is declaring, “For too long we’ve taken gratitude for granted!”
On the center’s home page (greatergood.berkeley.edu/expandinggratitude) they set the following goals:
- Expand the scientific database of gratitude…in human health, personal and relational well-being, and developmental science;
- Promote evidence-based practices of gratitude in medical, educational, and organizational settings and in schools, workplaces, homes and communities,
- Engage the public in a larger cultural conversation about the role of gratitude in civil society.
Benefits of gratitude
From ancient truth, the Apostle Paul tells us, “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Do not quench The Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-19).
According to Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center, “If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.”
Further, Dr. Mercola’s studies declare that gratitude improves sleep, reduces stress, enhances a sense of well-being and improves heart health. These benefits were the conclusion of a study comparing a group who kept a gratitude journal, compared to a group who tended to ‘focus on sources of aggravation.’
The Greater Good Science Center now makes it easy with an active online gratitude journal at thanx4.org. It’s a “scientific tool to understand what happens when people say ‘thank you,’” they say.
Are there more health and well-being benefits? Oh Yes! There are so many more researched benefits discovered in the last five years, that there’s not enough space in this article to share it all, but I’ll give you a few more.
Gratitude has been shown to effect inflammatory and immune system functions, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, EEG rhythms, mood neurotransmitters, reproductive hormones and cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters.
The truth is, we were designed to be gracious, thankful beings dwelling in an ocean of flowing gratitude. Anything less tends to bring ill health in so many ways.
There’s even been a study of the benefits of saying grace before eating at the dinner table. Holding hands, praying in thanksgiving with a mate, family and friends is also amazingly beneficial they claim. Wow!
Ten ways to practice gratitude
1.Keep a gratitude journal, either online or with a traditional journal.
2.Send one simple thank you note on a regular basis. Start once or twice a week, then increase.
3.Post a picture on your refrigerator of someone you love, of happy moments and of something exciting you plan to do this year.
4.Give more hugs and group hugs.
5.Take 1-5 minutes two or three times a day to pause and share a thank you list with God. Don’t worry. It’s ok to say thank you for the same thing many times!
6.Hang framed quotes and pictures in your office and home to visually remind you of things you appreciate and love.
7.Consciously seek to develop the habit of ‘finding’ the good side of everything.
8.Keep a mirror on your desk, in your face, smile and thank that person in the reflection! Appreciate yourself more!
9.Take the Berkeley University gratitude quiz several times the next few months. (greatergood.berkeley.edu/quizzes/take_quiz/6).
10.Write me a thank you for this article. It took a lot of research and writing just for you.
One more thing – we reap a precious return from showing special gratitude to some of the most selfless and wonderful people on earth, our pastors and leaders. When they are weary and fainting, our expression of gratitude is so helpful to them and through them to your community. Be creative and direct. Send them a goofy picture in an email and tell them something that says thank you for being there for us…and for you.
The key is consistency: the habit of gratitude slowly builds strength within our soul.
Over time, it is one of the secret ingredients of a strong, less tired and weary soul: the habit of gratitude.
Steve Davis, Ed.S is an adjunct professor (adult development, research & writing) at Trinity International University. Now retired, he has also served as the registrar, advisor to the Master of Arts in Theological Studies and International Student Representative at Trinity International University, Davie. He can be contacted at [email protected].