There is a lot to be said for being grateful. In fact, it has been a subject of research at universities by psychologists during recent decades. This research has concluded that those who are grateful are happier. They also earn more money, are better students, have more friends, and enjoy better health, to name a few of the benefits derived from an attitude and practice of gratitude.
Is this just so much "pop" psychology, or is it for real?
Millions are anything but happy. The statistics about the number of adults who suffer from depression are also depressing! Teenagers and even pre-school children have been found to be depressed. Why are so many people so depressed and unhappy? Why are so many taking antidepressant medications? Can a simple change of attitude really lead to happiness?
Theologians and philosophers have espoused thankfulness and gratitude as positive virtues for millennia. But with the rise of the field of positive psychology, scientists have lately decided to study gratitude and to determine, scientifically, if gratitude has a positive effect on happiness and well-being. For example, Dr. Robert Emmons, psychology professor and research scientist at the University of California at Davis, embarked on a long-term and intensive research project to study the effects of a grateful attitude on happiness. He claims there are many positive outcomes to having a grateful attitude.
In his book Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Dr. Emmons gives evidence from his research that having a lifestyle of gratitude will result in improved relationships, better grades, a higher energy level, improved vitality, and better sleep. Grateful people have higher levels of satisfaction with life and lower levels of depression and stress.
Studies show that gratitude can be deliberately cultivated and exercised by such simple means as keeping a journal listing things for which you are grateful, taking time to reflect on good things and savoring even small blessings that come your way, and by simply expressing your thanks to someone for something he or she did for you.
Many are familiar with some old songs about counting your blessings. One is by Irving Berlin called "Count your Blessings (instead of sheep)." The song was made popular by singer Bing Crosby. Part of the lyrics were: "When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep counting my blessings."
Another song was "Count your Blessings" by Johnson Oatman, Jr., published in 1897. Part of the lyrics of this hymn went like this: "When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done."
Do you suppose all of these people know what they are talking about? Yes, there is a way to true happiness. Part of it does involve being thankful, as these psychological studies have shown. The Creator God does want us to be happy. And, though there are reasons so many are unhappy in this present society, there are also reasons to have hope; "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). This is something for which to truly be thankful—and you can learn more about it, and the many other things the Bible teaches about the power of gratitude, if you have the heart to look.