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  • Writer's pictureBecky Proctor

Drug-free health boost

Practicing gratitude is good for us, body, mind and spirit.

No drugs, no disclaimers, and no side-effects, except positive ones.

Because we humans we tend to complicate things. Something as simple as being thankful couldn’t possibly be that effective, could it?

The answer is “yes.” There is much written about research on the benefits of cultivating gratitude, but I will share with you parts of one

. An article entitled The Health Benefits of Gratitude on reports.

Gratitude is:

Good for your brain. Based on a 2009 study from the National Institutes of Health, when we feel grateful or display an act of kindness, our brains are flooded with a chemical called dopamine, the “feel good” chemical which gives us “a natural high.” It feels so good, as a matter of fact, that in response we, ourselves, are likely to commit repeated acts of kindness or expressions of gratitude in order to feel that way again.

Good for pain. A 2003 study called Counting Blessings vs. Burdens where patients kept gratitude journals found that 16% reported reduced symptoms and 10% reported decreased pain.

Good for sleep. An old song goes, “When you’re troubled and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep…” The dopamine high contributes to a good night’s sleep which is essential to all our bodily functions. Good sleep alone can help relieve anxiety, depression, pain and stress.

Good for energy. With better rest, less stress, a brighter outlook and less pain, it’s not surprising that grateful people are more energetic and more likely to become more active as a result.

The author writes, “Gratitude research has repeatedly shown that thankful people have high energy levels, are more relaxed, and happier and healthier … Every study done on the subject of gratitude research has indisputable evidence that gratitude benefits our bodies, minds and souls.”

So simple, yet so powerful.

When I think of past times when depression had me in its grip , I think of the sick man lying by the pool called Bethesda as described in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John. Like him, when opportunities for “healing” presented, I could only watch as others stepped past me to enjoy the restorative waters as I sank deeper in the mud along the banks. I saw myself, pitiful and helpless.

The practice of gratitude is like saying “yes” to Jesus when He steps up and asks, “Do you want to be made well?” When we focus on the many things for which we can be thankful, we, like the man by the pool, are responding to the command, “take up your bed and walk.”

Every journey, after all, begins with one step.

Thanksgiving is the one time of the year when gratitude comes to the forefront. People who practice gratitude year round often keep gratitude journals. Not only is writing down our many blessings powerful, but being able to look back over page after page of blessings can be uplifting years from now. And what a gift to leave to a loved one!

I’ve never been organized or disciplined enough to maintain a gratitude journal. Heaven knows, there are journals all over my house, each with a line or two jotted here and there. Perhaps now is the time to reign myself in and buckle down. The best time of the day to do it, I am told, is first thing in the morning or the last thing at night, starting with simply listing three blessings.

Just writing about an attitude of gratitude today stirs my heart and I begin to hum this song by Don Moen:

“Give thanks with a grateful heart.

Give thanks to the Holy One.

Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.

And now, let the weak say, “I am strong.”

Let the poor say, “I am rich

Because of what the Lord has done for us.”

May your heart be filled to overflowing with gratitude, goodwill and peace today and know you will enjoy the benefits, mind, body and spirit!

Lord, create in us hearts that are aware. Thank You for the gift of opening our eyes to a new day and for the blessings of Your Holy comfort today and every day. Amen.

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