Gratitude will change your brain

We’ve all heard it said that gratitude should be part of every day – not just Thanksgiving Day. It’s clearly true – but why?

I used to believe that gratitude was a way to appease God – that if I didn’t express gratitude to Him, He might tear away the blessings that I had come unwittingly to take for granted, or withhold others in the future. After all, aren’t we rightfully disheartened to see our own children take for granted what we or others give them? – to see that the more they receive, the more they seem to want? I know my reaction can be to attempt to teach them gratitude by giving them less materially in the future.

But one of the things I am most grateful for today is that I don’t see our Triune God that way anymore. He is not sitting on a distant throne, waiting imperiously for me to kiss the ring on His finger and back away making a show of my appreciation. He is not waiting to replace a blessing with a curse if I forget to marvel each and every day at every heartbeat. every breath, every blade of grass, every ray of sunlight in my life that simply would cease to be if not for His constant care and love.

Yes, the importance of gratitude cannot be overstated – it connects us in our own minds to God, our Source (when in reality, we are never disconnected) and the Source of every good thing, and reminds us that we are loved beyond description.

But there is another reason – it turns out that gratitude is good for us.

“Research suggests that grateful people have more energy and optimism, are less bothered by life’s hassles, are more resilient in the face of stress, have better health, and suffer less depression than the rest of us,” writes Joan Boryenko, Ph.D. “People who practice gratitude – and yes, it is something one can learn and improve – are also more compassionate, more likely to help others, less materialistic, and more satisfied with life.”

In the book Code To Joy: The Four-Step Solution to Unlocking Your Natural State of Happiness, authors Pratt and Lambrou point out that we naturally look for “what is wrong, what is dangerous, what is harmful, and what is not working in our lives.” Yet by building a daily gratitude habit – as simple as keeping a journal where you record every day just one thing that you are grateful for and review what you have written on the days preceding – the authors make the case that you will profoundly change your brain. “Rather than looking for what’s wrong, you are reprogramming your neural search engine to look for what’s right.”

And in looking for evidence of God working tirelessly and personally in the trenches of our own seemingly dark, sad world, where better to find Him than where things are going right? Of course, He is also to be found where things appear, to our eyes, to be going desperately and hopelessly wrong. In truth though, He has beaten and redeemed every injustice, every crime, every hurt. But since our shoulders are not as broad as His and our perspective limited in ways His is not, we can become weighed down and discouraged by such things if we do not train ourselves still to look for the good. But when you do, before you know it, what once appeared to be a dark, sad, hopeless, even Godless world can become transformed – to be seen as the bright, hopeful, miraculous, limitless, God-filled place that it really is.

What better thing to pass on to and share with those around us than eyes trained by gratitude to see even glimpses of the shining reality of God’s beloved world?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

– Jeannine Buntrock

1 comment so far

  1. Cleatus P. on

    I need to change my brain by being more thankful and grateful. I have a pretty sweet life… smokin’ hot super sweet wife, two amazing daughters, and a job that I just love! I will be more grateful in 2013! Thanks for this.

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