Saturday, November 26, 2011


“…give thanks…” –Psalm 75:1

We need to remember to count our blessings this Thanksgiving season. Even science proves it’s good for us. Even though Christmas lights and black Friday are the focus, we need to remember to slow down and acknowledge all the ways we are blessed. And it's contagious. As Thanksgiving fades away and Christmas approaches, stay thankful. Don't give into the tendency to start focusing on what I "need" for Christmas. Thankful parents tend to produce thankful kids and thankful bosses tend to produce thankful employees. Be a thankful person.

It's kind of funny, but scientist are finding that being thankful makes us happier and can change our attitude about life, "like an emotional reset button"' said an article I read today. Is that really new news? "Oprah was right," said University of Miami psychology professor Michael McCullough, who has studied people who are asked to be regularly thankful. "When you are stopping and counting your blessings, you are sort of hijacking your emotional system."

And he means hijacking it from out of a funk into a good place -a very good place. Research by McCullough and others finds that giving thanks is a potent emotion that feeds on itself, almost the equivalent of being victorious. It could be called a vicious circle, but it's anything but vicious.

McCullough said psychologists used to underestimate the strength of simple gratitude: "It does make people happier ... it's that incredible feeling."

One of the reasons why gratitude works so well is that it connects us with others, McCullough said. That's why when you give thanks it should be more heartfelt and personal instead of a terse thank you note for a gift or a hastily run-through grace before dinner.

Of course, the gratitude is empty if it's not directed to the Giver of givers, the loving God of the Universe. True thanks acknowledges that any blessing comes from the Giver of all good gifts.

"Gratitude also serves as a stress buffer," Emmons said. "Grateful people are less likely to experience envy, anger, resentment, regret and other unpleasant states that produce stress."

Scientists are not just looking at the emotions behind gratitude but the nuts-and-bolts physiology as well. Preliminary theories look at the brain chemistry and hormones in the blood and neurotransmitters in the brain that are connected to feelings of gratitude, Emmons said. And the left prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is also associated with positive emotions like love and compassion, seems to be a key spot, Emmons said.

Of course, our Designer knows we need it too. When we praise God and thank Him for all His blessings, the difficulties we encounter don't rule our lives. When we focus on the big picture, the other pictures grow smaller. And it all pales in contrast to God choosing to send His Son to die so that we might have eternal life.

It’s better than any gift we’ll get for Christmas.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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