Giving thanks is good for you!
A leading researcher in the field of positive psychology, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, from the University of Pennsylvania, tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on over 400 people. Each was compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories.
When their week’s assignment was to write and deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for their kindness, participants immediately showed a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.
On 24th November this year (2022) the United States will celebrate a national holiday called “Thanksgiving” as they do every year. But according to one American “the irony of it is, very little thanksgiving takes place on Thanksgiving. We’re usually very busy doing everything else preparing, cooking, eating, entertaining, talking with friends, watching football, all kinds of other things … reading the sale catalogs for the next day… The only thanks that’s usually offered is a 1 or 2 minute prayer before the big meal and that’s by only one person!”
But as minimal as that is it’s more than happens in Australia! We don’t have a thanksgiving holiday at all and I think we are the losers in many ways. We never get to stop and think about what we are thankful for. The closest we ever come was summed up once on a church sign I saw at the end of the financial year. It said “Count your blessings or the tax man will”.
So what things are you thankful for in your life? I am thankful for my wife and children and of course, especially thankful for my grandchildren. But there’s lots of other things I am thankful for too. The fact I was born in Australia means in many ways I won the lottery of birth. Millions of others are born into poverty in developing countries and sometimes in war zones. I got free education right through my primary, secondary and university studies. And I have affordable health care (often free) when I need it – no matter how serious my problems are. Every day of my life I’ve had sufficient food to eat and clean water to drink. I am truely living a life for which I am deeply grateful and it seems to me that a little more recognition of the blessings we live in, by simply being more thankful, would go a long way to adjusting our perspective on the world.
The bible recommends that we give thanks a lot. It tells us to give thanks 34 times in the New International Version. Now this is not just ancient good advice. I think it helps us to see our greed for what it is. I think it helps us to see the needs of other people. And when you sing praise and thanks to God, like Psalm 100 says, you can sense His presence like no other way. Maybe you are best described as a prison singer – always behind a few bars and never have the right key – but thats no excuse! Singing or even thinking about the things you are thankful for in your life, brings positive issues to the fore in your life. Hopefully they may then crowd out the negative things that we so often get caught up in.
Dr Walter Calvert once did a study funded by the National Science Foundation of the things people worry about and he discovered…
- 30% of our worries are about events in the past. .
- 40% of the things we worry about never happen.
- 12% of our worries are unfounded health concerns.
- 10% of our worries are over minor and trivial issues.
- Just 8% of our worries are real, legitimate issues.
So if we concentrate on the things we are thankful for, it may help us to get past the 92% of things we waste our time worrying about! If it’s a choice between worry and thankfulness I’ll take thankfulness any time.
There’s a psychologist I read about, who, when he treats people with depression, always asks, “Did you sing the songs in your church last Sunday?” If they didn’t, he says, “I want you to go home & next week go to church and sing the songs.”
I have discovered in the times when I least feel like singing thanks, is when I need it the most. When I don’t feel like praising God, when I don’t feel like singing thanks, when my heart is cold, when I’m worried about something, I’m tired, or whatever, that’s when I need to be renewed through singing thanks to God.
Thankfulness is a mood lifter. So why not sit down and take a while to figure out what you are thankful for in your life. Find as many things as you can. And if today you’re feeling a little tired, or cranky, find an old hymn like “Amazing Grace” then learn to sing your thanksgiving to God. Its good for you!