Gratitude Changes Attitude: Understanding the Science of Gratitude
by Alex Hardt, Associate Pastor – Youth and Young Adults
We live gratefully because of God’s grace—because of all God has done for us through Jesus Christ. Grace is what separates Christianity from every other religion. And grace is the ultimate fuel for our gratitude. – Kara Powell
Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. – Psalm 100:3
We are consumed by negative thoughts. I turned on the news or see my social feeds streaming negative thought after negative thought. In a 2015 NY Times article it noted how our culture markets fear. You ever notice how scary stories garner attention and provoke action more efficiently than do rational arguments? When frightened, we react viscerally, our emotions are riled, and want to take action to protect ourselves and our communities. Fear and negativity tend to motivate people often in a way they may not normally respond. It manipulates and controls the individual. It dictates the situation. What am I going to do? What if I don’t respond? What is going to happen if I don’t get involved? What if I don’t show up or I miss out on something? What if they don’t like me?
It is human nature to avoid emotions that scare us. Who wants to walk directly into what promises to be a painful experience? Except that by continually avoiding looking at the ‘boogeyman’ within, you become hostage to the monster. – Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW (Psycom.net)
Gratitude is powerful. Gratitude is essential. It has the power to change the brain chemistry inside of us. Research has shown that gratitude can reduce stress and depression, improve general well-being, increase resilience, and support healthy social relationships. People who are grateful tend to have better overall well-being and life satisfaction. Science has shown that gratitude can change one’s physical attributes like increasing immune systems, lowering blood pressure, reducing stress, and helping one sleep better. Grateful people tend to be more alert and more generous, compassionate, and happier. Grateful people also have a greater capacity for joy and positive emotions.
Gratitude involves noticing the goodness in the world, but it doesn’t mean being blind to the tough stuff or the mess that can get all of us from time to time. Gratitude makes sure that in the midst of the things that serve up a good dose of negative feelings, we don’t lose sight of the good. – Karen Young (heysigmund.com)
We choose to live by gratitude or by fear. We choose the way we see our world and how it has an effect upon how we live. In 1 Timothy 4:4 it says that God created everything, and it was Good. In Psalm 100:3 it explains how God made us, and that we are His people. In 1 Chronicles 16:34 it proclaims that God’s love for us never ceases. God, the creator of all things, endlessly blesses us. Our attitude should be out of response to who the creator is and what God has done for us. If our creator is kind, compassionate, and gracious then we should do likewise. Maybe you’re a leader or parent wondering how to help teenagers and young adults grapple with this truth. Maybe you need help reclaiming gratitude yourself as this year has been punctuated with more heartbreak than joy.
Below are a few ideas to begin reclaiming gratitude:
- Every night at dinner or bedtime, ask your family to share one thing they are grateful for that day
- Spend time in the community serving. Discover the joy of helping those in need and appreciate how God has blessed you.
- Have open conversations around grace and blessings with others. Shift the conversations you engage in by starting the conversation with: What are you grateful for? What has brought you joy this week?
- Live out grace. This can be done by surprising your kids or someone else by not giving them a consequence they “deserve” for a mistake or poor behavioral choice. Instead extend grace to them, connect that grace to our heavenly father, and celebrate the great things they have done.
- Spend time reading about God’s faithfulness, goodness, and compassionate heart towards us in the Bible.
- Focus your prayers for a week on not what you don’t have, what’s broken, what you need but instead upon what God has done for you, how God is moving around you, and how God is moving through you.
More ideas at these Blogs: