Several years ago, two college professors — Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California, and Dr. Michael McCullough of the University of Miami — did some research on the benefits of giving thanks. In one of their experiments they had a group of adults keep “gratitude journals” for a period of time. In these journals participants kept an ongoing, written record of the many things for which they were grateful. The two professors then compared the attitudes and habits of these men and women with the attitudes and habits of two other groups of adults who did not spend any special time giving thanks. Priest psychologist Father Stephen Rossetti summarized the results of the experiment as follows:
“Physically, the gratitude group exercised more, had fewer physical symptoms, and slept better. Psychologically, they reported higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination and energy. They experienced less depression and stress as well as high levels of optimism and life satisfaction, without denying the negative aspects of their lives. Spiritually, they were more likely to help others, they were less envious of others, less materialistic, more generous, and more likely to attend religious services and engage in religious activities.”
The point here is that giving thanks is good for us. It’s a healthy activity, which has noteworthy benefits both in the natural and supernatural dimensions of our lives. As Father Rossetti makes clear in his summary, gratitude makes a positive and measurable difference in a person’s quality of life — physically, psychologically and spiritually.
Perhaps this gives us an insight as to why there are so many sad and confused people among us these days. If you limit your thanksgiving to one Thursday in late November each year, you should not expect to reap its many enriching benefits. Only those who try to make showing gratitude their “attitude” each and every day will be so blessed.
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