The Art and the Science of Practicing Gratitude

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Gratitude…it’s a word that we hear often during this month of thanksgiving. Yet, the word itself has just recently started to make a resurgence into our vocabulary after nearly three centuries of falling into dis-use. Why? I have a theory…but more on that later.

First, I want to take a moment to express our gratitude for you. Because of your prayers, your financial support, and your volunteerism we are able to do the important work we do at Christian Counselling Services. Without your prayers, many hurting hearts wouldn’t find their way here. Without your financial support, we couldn’t welcome everyone who comes through our doors searching for help in a time of crisis. Without your volunteerism, we couldn’t reach out into the community and create awareness of who we are and what we are here to do.

Each Thursday at Christian Counselling Services, we practice the habit of gratitude – and you might be surprised to find your name mentioned during this time!

Our staff team meets for prayer every day. On Thursday, we have a special prayer focus…gratitude. We have coined the phrase “Thankful Thursday” to describe these times where we expressly thank God for His many blessings, including our faithful donors and supporters. We pray for each one of you by name, and thank God for your partnership with us in this ministry. Without God’s work through you, there would be no Christian Counselling Services in Saskatoon. May you know the goodness of God in your lives as a result of your partnership with us.

Now… back to my theory on gratitude. This year a book was published entitled: The Art of Gratitude (Meredith Gaston, 2016, Penguin Books). The title caught my eye. I admit I did not read the book…the title alone was enough to get me thinking. Art or science…what contributes to the formation of gratitude in our lives?

Let’s take Thankful Thursday here at Christian Counselling Services as an example. Gratitude was something our staff team agreed was an important value to us. Yet, like any concept, it began to take on deeper meaning when we actually began to practice it in the form of a repeated behavior. Behavior solidifies belief – this is a basic psychological principle and also a basic spiritual principle (“If you love Me, keep My commands” – Jesus, John 14:15).

As we practiced the habit of gratitude each week on Thankful Thursday, I found my thoughts throughout the rest of the week more naturally turning to gratitude. Why? A growing body of research demonstrates that the regular practice of gratitude has a very real impact on our brains. In a recent study, researchers scanned neural activity in the brain and discovered that even several months after a simple gratitude task, people reported feeling more thankful about life in general than before they had engaged in the gratitude task (Kini, Wong, and Mcinnis, 2016, NeuroImage, Vol. 128, pp. 1-10).

Isn’t that astounding?!

The implication is that the more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and the more you can enjoy the psychological benefits of being grateful.

This brings added meaning to the Apostle Paul’s words: Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18). God really does want our best – He knows the way He designed our brains to function: the more we practice being thankful, regardless of our circumstances, the better we will feel – mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

During this month of October, give it a try: at the beginning or end of each day, take a moment to express your gratitude to God for three things, and see how your perspective on life begins to change!


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4 thoughts on “The Art and the Science of Practicing Gratitude

  1. Heather – I find exactly the same thing, but am pleased to have it validated by someone with more knowledge. Each a.m., I thank Him for at least 3 things – & it gives such a lift! Great start to the day.
    Thank you for your helpful words each month, also.

    Like

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