Using Faith to Practice Mindful Gratitude
It’s a familiar memory for many of us: sitting around the table for Thanksgiving dinner, each person taking a moment to mention the things they’re grateful for. Unfortunately, being grateful seems to be something we’re reminded of only once a year.
When it comes to practicing gratitude, many of us fall short. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day challenges, with the difficulties that life throws to us on a regular basis. We start to focus on our troubles, then wonder why we’re often so tired or unhappy.
Practicing mindful gratitude, and being thankful for things all year long, will improve your life in several ways: it will improve your physical health, your mental health and your relationships. If you’re a person of faith, you have probably experienced a sense of meaning and purpose to your life. However, we are human and at times we can become discouraged, However, here are some ways gratitude can improve your life.
Improved Physical Health
Gratitude helps improve your physical health in numerous ways. According to a 2013 study published by the journal Personality and Individual Differences, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, and were more likely to take care of their health. Improved self-care will have a positive impact on your willpower and mood, and help you sleep better.
Improved Mental Health
Regularly practicing gratitude can help you learn to appreciate yourself more. By acknowledging your blessings, you’ll look less enviously on the special trips and occasions of your friends in your social media feed. Avoiding negative thoughts will help bolster your self-esteem and keep your mood lifted. Gratitude can also help ease depression as you stay mindful of reasons to be happy and appreciate the positive things in your life.
Saying please and thank you not only shows good manners, but it also exhibits a positive attitude that can attract new people into your life. Showing appreciation can lead to new friendships while also help to improve existing ones. As you practice gratitude on a regular basis, recognizing the positive in the people in your life and letting them know, you’ll create loving, long-lasting bonds.
Finding reasons to be and stay grateful can sometimes be challenging. Life can often test us in ways we feel we’re not quite prepared to handle. But leaning on your faith in times of trial can give you the edge you need to practice gratitude regularly. The benefits to mindful gratitude are so numerous, it’s well worth the time and effort to make practicing mindful gratitude a priority in your life.
Clinical research has shown that anxiety and gratitude cannot exist at the same time. This research confirms what has been known for centuries. Scripture declares that prayerful meditation done in with a spirit of gratitude is the antidote to anxiety. In chapter 4 of St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he provides a strategy that modern day research says to be an effective way to combat worry. St. Paul tells us in verses 6-7, “Do not be anxious for anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds,” meaning your emotions and your thoughts will be guarded in a sense of peace that makes no earthly sense when we pray/meditate in a spirit of thankfulness. Interestingly enough, he was imprisoned (in chains) when he wrote that letter! It’s amazing the effect journaling can have on a troubled mind.
I can say that in reflecting on the past four years since I began my private practice, I have had more highs than I’ve had lows. But those lows can really take away from the beautiful moments. If I dwell on my failures, it becomes harder for me to breathe which causes me to have brain fog (lack of oxygen to my brain). This leads me to remain enslaved to those negative thoughts that continue to increase because that’s what negative thinking does. But if I reflect on how those low points actually taught me lessons as evidenced by the highlights that followed, then I am blown over by how good the outcome has been overall. And all of a sudden, I can breathe better, my shoulders don’t feel as heavy, and I gain clarity of mind & peace in my heart.
If you’re looking for guidance and direction on how to improve a troubled mind & spirit, please give our office a call today or send me a contact request at https://revelationlpc.com/contact/. We will be more than happy to help.
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(2), 377–389. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-35188.8.131.527
Hill, P. L., Allemand, M., & Roberts, B. W. (2013). Examining the Pathways between Gratitude and Self-Rated Physical Health across Adulthood. Personality and individual differences, 54(1), 92–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.08.011