Life can zap us of strength!
We want to live full, energized lives. But we’re too tired, depressed, or anxious to do the work to change our lives. There is a simple step that can reinvigorate us—gratitude!
Solomon penned these words, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22).
The word “cheerful” means joyful or glad. When we engage our whole being in thanksgiving—body, mind, and soul—it is a medicine that heals us.
In other words, gratitude changes our lives. How? Gratitude helps us in three ways.
It Changes Our Responses.
Our body is wired to respond to danger with a fight-or-flight response. When we feel threatened, our brain sends a message to our body that we’re in trouble: Our heart pounds, palms sweat, and our muscles tense. If we were facing a bear, adrenaline would be a good thing.
What happens when we’re not confronted with an immediate danger like a bear? Our body still surges with anxiety, panic, and fear. We are in a constant state of alert. It’s hard for us to relax. We can’t sleep at night. And it makes us more susceptible to illnesses.
Is there any hope? Yes! Instead of allowing anxiety to overtake our bodies, we can practice gratitude. We can begin each day by praying, “Lord, I am thankful for . . .” Then, we can meditate on a particular Bible verse throughout the day. By the end of the day, we can write down or share with someone three things that went well.
Research shows that gratitude can lower our anxiety and level of stress. Feeling grateful and appreciating others when they do something nice for us triggers hormones that help us feel better. By activating the reward center of the brain, gratitude can change the way we respond to our struggles.
It Changes Our Recovery.
We may feel depressed, anxious, lonely, bitter, or full of rage. If we act out and turn to a substance or an unhealthy habit, our pain is relieved. But . . . only temporarily. Then, we have to turn back to addiction to feel better.
When we stop using our substance of choice and get into recovery, we can no longer change our feelings through that particular substance. Instead of dealing with our painful feelings, we often turn to other addictions such as food, shopping, or codependent relationships.
One of the best ways to deal with difficult emotions is to change our perspective, which is why gratitude helps us in recovery. Gratitude rewires the brain and practicing gratitude keeps our mind focused on the good.
Here’s a tip: the next time we encounter painful feelings or a desire to use, we can jot down five things we’re grateful for. Repeat until the feelings pass. Gratitude counteracts the desire for us to turn to addiction.
The more grateful we are, the less likely we are to be stuck in addiction.
It Changes Our Relationships.
We must nourish our relationships, or they’ll die. Gratitude feeds and deepens our relationships. If we express thankful appreciation to those in our lives, we will not only be a happier person, but we’ll also improve the lives of others.
How? Here’s a few ways we can express our gratitude:
- Write thank you letters.
- Send a thoughtful text or email.
- Show affection.
- Point out someone’s positive traits.
- Tell someone how much we appreciate them.
Whether it’s a stranger or a coworker, everyone with whom we interact can provide opportunities for us to express our gratitude. But it’s those closest to us—our children, spouses, parents, and friends—who need our gratitude the most. Gratitude changes everything—it’s a medicine that heals our lives.