What Is Gratitude?
“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.” —Psalm 136:1
At first glance, we may think we have to give thanks because God needs our appreciation. In reality, God is complete without our worship. He existed long before He created us. Then, why are there so many commands to give thanks to the Lord? Why do we need gratitude? What is gratitude?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful and readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” The Latin root “gratus” implies pleasure or something pleasing, agreeable, and welcome. So, to be grateful is to be full of pleasure.
There are two words in Hebrew that apply to gratitude. “Yadah” is a verb translated as “to give thanks, laud, or praise; to confess something about God; to confess one’s own sin.” It is used 114 times in the Bible. “Todah” is a noun used 32 times in the Bible. It is translated as “confession, praise, and thanksgiving; giving of praise of God.”
How Can We Benefit from Gratitude?
In Psychology Today, Amy Morin discusses seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.
- Opens the door to more relationships
- Improves physical health
- Improves psychological health
- Enhances empathy and reduces aggression
- Promotes better sleep
- Improves self-esteem
- Improves mental health
How Can We Experience the Benefits of Gratitude?
Opens the door to more relationships
How many of us enjoy spending time with negative people? Usually, when we are around negative people, it drains our energy. We usually like to watch funny movies or movies with happy endings. We like to be around people who enjoy life. While negative people can make us emotionally tired, positive people lift our spirit. They help us see the good things in life. When we become thankful for the small things in our lives that we take for granted, we encourage others to see life from a different perspective. Being positive can help others want to be around us more, opening the door to more relationships.
Improves physical health
I work in the medical field. I always witness how quickly positive patients recover and go home. They have the energy and willingness to do what the therapists, nurses, and doctors tell them to do. They have learned to appreciate any improvement. Instead of focusing on what they can’t do, they are excited about what they have accomplished.
Improves psychological health
When we are grateful, we allow our minds to focus on the present. Most of us spend too much time regretting the past and in fear of the future. Gratitude allows us to celebrate today. We learn to magnify our blessings.
Enhances empathy and reduces aggression
As we are witnessing around the world, violence and hate seem to get worse by the day. The first question is always: Why did the person choose to destroy or hurt others? Most of the time, the answer is disappointment for what they lack or are afraid of losing. Gratitude lifts our eyes from ourselves to others. When we feel content, we look for ways to help others.
Promotes better sleep
What usually robs our sleep are worry and anxiety. When we are anxious, our brain sends signals to alert the body to fight or flee. When we choose to be grateful for what we have, we are deciding not to be controlled by fear of lacking. A peaceful mind rests well.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”— Isaiah 26:3
Our view of self gets distorted when we start comparing ourselves with others. Gratitude helps us to see who God created us to be in His own image. It helps us to focus on the gifts and talents He blessed us with for His purpose.
“I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” — Psalm 139:14
Improves mental health
The mind is one of the most powerful parts of us that God created. He did not give us choices on family, gender, ethnicity, race, or birthplace. But He allows us to control what we choose to think. To have a grateful heart, we must first control what goes into our mind. Every day, we choose what to watch, what to listen to, what to read, and what entertainment to use. So, to be grateful requires intentionality. We should try to watch, read, and listen to things that focus on the positive things in our lives and world.
“Above everything else guard your heart, because from it flow the springs of life.” — Proverbs 4:23