We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. – Thornton Wilder

At this time of year, we’re reminded that being thankful is a good thing and that we should focus on our blessings. However, we often take it for granted- “yeah, it’s Thanksgiving again” and we focus our energies on planning the family gathering, the big meal, and sports. All of those things are good and fill us with a sense of tradition and togetherness, but we can lose sight of the real purpose of the holiday of Thanksgiving, something more meaningful than turkey and football.

Being grateful is an attitude of the heart that recognizes the goodness that surrounds us and that comes from the hand of God. The benefits of being thankful are many:

  • We recognize that someone much greater than ourselves is at work in and around us.
  • We are humbled by the blessings that we don’t always deserve.
  • Our mental health benefits from being grateful! Gratitude is the perfect antidote to self-pity and depression. Being thankful daily can promote a sense of well-being and peace.
  • Gratitude improves self-esteem and decreases self-centeredness.
  • Gratitude improves relationships and draws people to us.
  • We become more resilient the more grateful we are.
  • Gratitude can lead us to focus on the important things in life instead of material things.

Matthew Henry, a famous minister and Bible scholar (1662-1714) was once assaulted, and his friends asked him how he was doing afterward. They expected to hear him say that he was shaken up, angry, or fearful. Instead, he said:

I’m so grateful to God. I have four things to be grateful for. The first one is that this is the first time I’ve been assaulted. Second, I’m grateful that they stole my bag but they didn’t take my life. Third, I’m grateful that although they took my bag, there wasn’t much in the bag. And fourth, I’m grateful that I was robbed and I wasn’t the thief.

What an amazing example of gratitude! I was robbed at gunpoint while I lived in Venezuela and my car was taken. I can’t say that I was as grateful as Matthew Henry! I was shaking, crying, and afraid to go out for a few days. I am extremely grateful though that my children were not in the car with me at the time of the robbery. I had just dropped them off at school! They were safe!

All around us, there are thousands of things to be grateful for. I often encourage my clients to keep a gratitude journal and write down three things they’re thankful for each night before going to bed. This exercise can help the mind and spirit focus on our blessings and God’s providence just before laying down to sleep. I encourage you to make this habit yours as we enter the holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving! May your heart be full of gratitude as you recognize the hand of God in your life.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

Deborah Pinkston, Ph.D.