A note from Kelly King: Next week in homes and hospitals, in shelters and on beaches, in every setting imaginable, most Americans will gather around a table of some sort to share a meal together for Thanksgiving. It is tradition in our home, and I’m sure many of yours, for everyone at the table to share something they are grateful for. Giving thanks is more than a quaint table tradition.
According to Harvard Medical School, “Expressing thanks may be one the simplest ways to feel better.” The research on gratitude is undeniable: having a grateful heart and mindset makes us feel better! According to a study by Wong and Brown from Indiana University, gratitude changes our brains by unshackling us from toxic emotions. Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain. Sounds like a win to me! Current research simply reflects what is written and taught over and over in the Word of God. Consider these words from the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB): “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? While we are a people with so much to be grateful for, sometimes circumstances and seasons of life make practicing an attitude of gratitude a bit challenging. If that describes you, please don’t shame yourself for it. Instead, consider these three simple ways to cultivate gratitude:
1. Say thank you. That’s it. As often as you have opportunity, say, “Thank you” to anyone and everyone you can. There is power in the spoken word, and hearing ourselves say the words, “Thank you” can help cultivate gratitude in our hearts. Those words are seeds planted, and they grow!
2. Write it. Hand written thank you notes have gone by the wayside. Isn’t it fun to get one? Write a note of thanks to someone! It is also extremely beneficial to write what you are thankful for in a journal. Many studies have shown that people who “count their blessings” tend to be happier and less depressed. The writing of blessings also causes your brain to meditate on those things, which is another benefit.
3. Act on it. Call it “pay it forward” or whatever you want, but putting actions to a feeling or thought uniquely strengthens the thing in us and to us. In simplest form, we cultivate gratitude when we say it, write it, and do it! Let’s practice that this week. I’m in, are you? Lord, enlarge our hearts’ capacity for gratitude, and open our eyes to it today.
If this is a particularly painful season for you or if you feel isolated and alone, I am so sorry. The Lord sees you, He knows right where you are, and He is actively working on your behalf; it’s in His character to do so. If you are alone and need help, please make a call. Start with your church or an organization in your community that can help with your need. If you enter this season with thoughts to harm yourself, please call 1-800-273-8255.
Father, by Your great power and compassionate heart, please surround those who are hurting with a very real sense of Your power, Your presence, and Your provision. Make a way where there seems to be no way. Come to their rescue. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through Lifeway Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. Kaye is also a contributing author for the Lifeway resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.