Paul exhorts us to “in everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:18 NASB). Here, I consider some of the benefits that can flow to us through following this exhortation.
Dispelling negative emotions
Being thankful can sweep away negative attitudes and feelings. It’s impossible to be both grateful and angry or depressed. Thankfulness releases the hold negative emotions have on our lives. “All happy people are grateful. Ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that being unhappy leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that complaining leads to people becoming unhappy.”1 Having an attitude of gratitude leaves little room for anything negative.
Improving your physical well-being
The mind and the body are connected. Thankfulness is the switch that changes our negative attitudes and emotions into positive ones, with physical benefits. The authors of the book The Psychology of Gratitude note that in “a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy, positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.”2 Turn the thankfulness switch on and you will find positive emotional and physical results.
Developing a habit of gratitude
Giving thanks doesn’t always come naturally. Motivational speaker Ralph Marston says, “Make it a habit to tell people thank you. To express your appreciation, sincerely and without the expectation of anything in return. Truly appreciate those around you, and you’ll soon find many others around you. Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it.”3 Thankfulness can be learned and, over time, becomes a healthful habit.
Becoming more spiritual
Being thankful is sometimes hard. But if God has commanded it, we can be sure he will give us the grace to do it. And thankfulness doesn’t have to be half-hearted—a godly perspective always points us to the good in any situation and helps us be thankful. According to Jacob Justiss, giving thanks can help us spiritually. “If we were more thankful our lives would be more spiritual; we would triumph more easily over affliction; and the darkest of our defeats could be used as a basis for greater strength. Rather than robbing God of praise, trials should add thereto.”4
Giving thanks can do wonderful things in our lives. For Americans, November is Thanksgiving season, but giving thanks should be a year-round celebration for Christians who want to enjoy good emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental health.
1. Dennis Prager, “A Simple Truth about Happiness” June 16, 2009, http://our28class.blogspot.jp/2009/06/simple-truth-about-happiness-by-dennis.html
2. Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, The Psychology of Gratitude (Oxford University Press, 2004).
3. Robert Marston, “Brainy Quote” 2001–2017, https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/ralphmarst163841.html
4. Jacob Justiss, “Are you Thankful?” November 1960, https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1960/11/are-you-thankful