“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” – Psalm 106:1
(also Psalms 107:1, 118:1, 118:29, 136:1)
A woman once asked her physician, “Doctor, why am I seized with these restless longings for the glamorous and faraway?” “My dear lady,” the doctor replied, “those are the usual symptoms of abundant comfort in the home and ingratitude in the heart.”
When I first read that story I thought it was nonsense. Why would anyone ask a physician such a question – a therapist, pastor, or close friend perhaps, but not a medical doctor? Then I began to read some of the research being done in the field of neuroscience from which there is strong evidence that gratitude actually makes us happier and healthier, while ingratitude has the opposite effect, and can in fact be quite unhealthy.
In one study, randomly assigned participants were given one of three tasks. Each week, participants kept a short journal. One group briefly described five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week; another group recorded daily hassles from the previous week that displeased them; and a third neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told whether to focus on the positive or the negative. Ten weeks later, participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole and were a full twenty-five percent happier than the hassled group. They reported fewer health complaints, and exercised an average 1.5 hours more.
As long as I can remember our family has said a simple prayer before meals that was taught by my grandmother. “Father we thank thee for this food. Help us to be loving, kind and good.” We still say it every day, as do our children and grandchildren, a tradition that can be traced back at least five generations. The point is that something as simple as saying grace before a meal can help put us on a path of daily gratitude.
One of my favorite lessons from the late Zig Ziglar was to develop an “attitude of gratitude.” The Psalms teach that over and over, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” And as the wise doctor understood so well, it’s also good for our health.