Christmas excitement is building up all around us. Schools and churches are gearing up for special events., trees are being decorated, presents are being bought and wrapped. Talking of presents one of my childhood memories each year in the days after Christmas is writing thank you letters. One of the most predictable gifts each year was a writing pad and envelopes provided for that purpose. I am sorry to say that I was a most unwilling writer of Thank You letters. If this Christmas ritual at the kitchen table had not been enforced and overseen by my parents they would never have been written. So much easier now when you can text or email the giver almost as soon as you have unwrapped the gift!
This week I watched a video that describes the importance of gratitude in creating a healthy community. A research team has found that if people write down three things that they are thankful for every day, over time they experience a 25% increase in their joy and general well being. Their research subjects were people in extreme circumstances such as being on probation, going through family breakup, self harmers and similar. They called this intervention ‘lifestyle gratitude’ and found it had a hugely positive impact on peoples lives. It seems that an attitude of gratitude is a key to finding joy rather than joy being the key to gratitude.
Paul wrote – “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:18) Since it is God’s will for us to give thanks it is perhaps not surprising that this simple act has such a beneficial effect on us and the people around us. Right now think of three things, it doesn’t matter how small or insignificant they may seem, and say thank you to God for them.
I don’t know what three things you came up with, or even how easy you found that to do. As believers we, of all people, have much to be thankful for. Speaking of Jesus Paul also wrote – “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” 2 Cor 9:15. That gift is the heart of Christmas. As you give and receive presents this year, and practice gratitude with family and friends in the process. Make sure that you also give time to practice an attitude of gratitude towards God. See if you can come up with three things a day during December to thank God for and enjoy the change this will bring in your heart.
This blog post featured in the December 2014 edition of Lifelines