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To Your Health

The Power of Gratitude

Laural Bates


2012-insideasi-summer-fall_web__page_08_image_0002Each one of us experiences circumstances beyond our control. It seems especially true when you’ve committed your life to ministry. There’s a unique kind of frustration that comes when you’re living your life for others, and still things aren’t going quite like you’d planned. In the middle of such frustration, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22) may come across more as rebuke than encouragement. But it’s really a promise with benefits.

Recently, I typed “physical effects of depression” into my web browser, and it returned over 53 million links. An abundance of scientific research shows the contributing effects of depression, stress, and anxiety to physical illnesses. Of course, there’s no guarantee that choosing a positive outlook will keep you from getting sick, but there’s plenty of evidence that people who are cheerful and positive tend to be healthier. And the secret to remaining cheerful and positive—and to emotional and physical health—is gratitude.

“Nothing tends more to promote health of body and of soul than does a spirit of gratitude and praise” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 251). And further, “The relation that exists between the mind and the body is very intimate. When one is affected the other sympathizes. The condition of the mind affects the health to a far greater degree than many realize. Many of the diseases from which men suffer are the result of mental depression. Grief, anxiety, discontent, remorse, guilt, distrust, all tend to break down the life forces and to invite decay and death…. Courage, hope, faith, sympathy, love, promote health and prolong life. A contented mind, a cheerful spirit, is health to the body and strength to the soul. Gratitude, rejoicing, benevolence, trust in God’s love and care—these are health’s greatest safeguard…. We should encourage a cheerful, hopeful, peaceful frame of mind; for our health depends upon our so doing” (My Life Today, p. 151).

Gratitude does not come naturally to most of us. We’re weary and worn, often as the result of pouring out our lives for others. We feel as if our cups are empty, and we wait impatiently to be filled, failing to realize that gratitude—and being filled—is a choice, regardless of circumstances.

The fact that gratitude is a choice is good news, because it means we’re free to make that choice. There are several ways to cultivate gratitude. Here are five suggestions for getting started.

1. Ask God to open your heart to being grateful.

2. Record your blessings in a journal.

3. Post your blessings everywhere. Sticky notes are very useful for this.

4. Find a friend with whom you can share your blessings.

5. Purpose not to say anything negative for two weeks. If you say something negative, start the two weeks over.

6. Replace negative self-talk with positive thoughts. This will take effort, but it will become easier.

Take courage! You are on the way to a happier, healthier you.