As you prepare this week for the Thanksgiving celebration and feast, take a moment to reflect on the importance of this less commercial holiday. Thanksgiving is a once a year reminder of the goodness of God. It is a time to pause and intentionally attend to the blessings we have in our lives. And during this challenging year, the expression of our thanks is especially important as it brings many benefits.

One benefit is that gratitude improves your mood!  The expression of gratitude creates positive emotions and creates feelings of joy and happiness.  It can release the bonding hormone oxytocin. This physiological release decreases the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and promotes health. Thus, your body has a physiological reaction to gratitude that makes you feel good. Gratitude strengthens our emotions, makes us feel more positivity and helps us bounce back from stress.

In addition, the simple act of a daily gratitude practice can change your day. Try this: Every day, write down three things for which you are grateful and notice the change in your mood. This exercise has been shown to lift depression. In addition to writing down your gratitude, you can also verbalize thanks to others. This too will impact your mood in a positive way.

Furthermore, there are studies in which patients with hypertension were instructed to count their blessings once a week and their systolic blood pressure significantly decreased. And not only does gratitude lower your blood pressure, but it can also improve your immune function.

Gratitude is a characteristic of people whose lives are filled with inner peace and contentment. According to neuroscientist, Rick Hansen, gratitude helps people feel brighter and more alert. He believes that gratitude helps the brain increase dopamine – involved in the planning and experience of rewards.

Thus, in the middle of all the difficulty and bad news we hear, this Thanksgiving season, begin a new habit. Rehearse your blessings. Focus on what you have rather than what you do not have. Notice how different your day turns out. Gratitude will make a difference.

Then, meditate on these scriptures. Notice how the verses engage our will and are action oriented —I will rejoice, give thanks, be grateful, be thankful:

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24 ESV

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17 ESV

 Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:28 ESV

 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Colossians 3:15 ESV

The many benefits of gratitude

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