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The Physiology of Gratitude

Make a decision right now: you will take time this week to make a list of blessings, and choose to express your gratitude to God, to the people you love, and to those who know you best. Your life could depend on it.

Robert Emmons, Ph.D., is one of the foremost researchers of the psychology of gratitude and its incredible physical and emotional benefits.  In repeated case studies and examples, Emmons describes the experience of gratitude as it affects heart and brain function, relational skills, and work performance in his book, Thanks!  How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.  Christian theology has always emphasized thanksgiving as part of worship.  Our own national heritage includes a special holiday devoted to expressing gratitude.  But the economy begs us to forsake gratitude.  Gratitude is the enemy of greed and covetousness, two prime engines for materialism, and we must choose to pursue it for our spiritual, emotional, and physical health.

Gratitude is a choice, Emmons argues.  We must choose to give thanks.  When we do, our choice changes how we see the world, how we view ourselves, how we embrace opportunity, how we show affection, how we live.  Is it any wonder that the Psalms are peppered with the encouragement to give thanks?

Don’t rush into the frenzy of holiday marketing.  Stop and assess what you already have and enjoy.  Take the time to give thanks and enjoy it.  You will enter these holidays with a different emotional health and you will fulfill God’s great wish for you–that your life could be far more than possessions or status.  You will find that you have already been loved by the God who intervened in history to rescue you, and you will find rest, relief, and joy.  Gratitude will, indeed, nourish your soul as the feast of Thanksgiving will nourish your body!

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