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COLUMN: The benefits of gratitude

Rev. Stephen B. Clark, Sentinel columnist
Posted 7/23/22

How do you respond? What is your focus when things go wrong? You get all kinds of happiness advice on the internet from people.

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COLUMN: The benefits of gratitude


How do you respond? What is your focus when things go wrong?

You get all kinds of happiness advice on the internet from people. Some cause you to wonder if they know what they are talking about. Cures are a-plenty. They all prompt a deeper query — and some degree of skepticism.

This includes what I might write. So, whom do you trust? Whom do you listen to? How are you going to live your life?

Let me suggest that we can trust the ones who know and study the “gray blob” in your head. These neuro-scientists have learned much – and it verifies the counsel of Scripture. A UCLA neuroscience researcher has some insights that can create an upward spiral of happiness in one’s life. Their research has shown that “The most important question to ask when you feel down is … What am I grateful for?”

An honest reflection of your blessings and the day’s benefits causes a chemical change in the brain — but then, so does worry, shame and guilt. In his book, “The Upward Spiral”, neuroscientist Alex Korb writes:

“The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in the social circuits which makes social interaction more enjoyable … Trying to think of things you are grateful for forces you to focus on the positive aspects of life. This simple act increases the neurotransmitter serotonin in the anterior cingulate cortex – similar to the brain boosting effects that the drug Prozac brings.”

In other words, being grateful builds your brain and strengthens your social receptors which enhances your overall well-being! Another benefit is that research showed it creates a “positive feedback loop” in your relationships – providing others with a similar neurochemical impact. Being a “grumpy grouch” is not only a means to tear apart relationships; it denigrates one’s self-worth and debilitates one’s brain.

Sounds much like the instruction of the Apostle Paul:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice.” – Philippians 4:33

In plain terms, look for ways to be grateful – for occasions to say and mean “thank you” to others – for people whom you may impact with your gratitude.  Be less presumptive of others and less reactive to their slights or sullenness – and more joyful in God’s daily provision for your needs.

See the events of life as a means of grace and a cause for gratitude! Recount the words of the old gospel song – and note that Paul asked us to repeat it:

“Count your blessings; name them one by one –

Count your blessings; see what God has done.

Count your blessings; name them one by one –

Count your many blessings; see what God has done.”

Expressing your gratitude makes for a healthier mind and healthier relationships as you give glory to God! When you make God the center of your daily perspective on life, you will walk and talk differently.

Think about it!


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