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Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. When I was young, I looked forward to it for the chance I would have to see extended family members and eat lots of good food. I still love it for that, but with time, it has become more meaningful to me as I have come to better understand the benefits of taking time to be grateful for what I have.
We have been told in the scriptures to “thank the Lord thy God in all things.” (D&C 59:7) But this is not for God’s benefit, but for our own. For example, we are also told that “he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.” (D&C 78:19)
Clearly, there are spiritual benefits that come from gratitude, both in the long term and the short term. However, as scientists have started to study the effects of gratitude, they are finding surprising temporal benefits as well.
The website happierhuman.com reports on these findings. It states that gratitude improves our health, relationships, emotions, personality, and career. For example, regularly spending five minutes each day writing in a journal about things for which you are grateful can increase your long-term well-being by more than 10 percent, which is the same effect as doubling your income. The website reported: “Gratitude makes us nicer, more trusting, more social, and more appreciative. As a result, it helps us make more friends, deepen our existing relationships, and improve our marriage.”
Gratitude helps to increase our material wealth by making people more effective managers, helping us to network, increasing our decision making capabilities, increasing our productivity, and helping us to get mentors and protégés.
Practicing gratitude makes us more optimistic, less materialistic, more spiritual, less self-centered, and helps to increase our self-esteem. With respect to our health, regularly counting our blessings can reduce symptoms of disease, pain, stress and depression and can increase energy, cardiovascular health and sleep quality. As the song goes, “So if you’re worried and you can’t sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep.”
God wants us to be happy. And clearly, one of the best ways for us to learn happiness is to live lives of gratitude. The scriptures say “live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.” (Alma 34:38) No wonder we have a holiday set aside to express gratitude! So have a happy Thanksgiving! And express your gratitude daily. You will be grateful that you did.