I Thessalonians 5:16 says: “Rejoice. In everything give thanks.” Notice it says be grateful in all things and not for all things. Divine Principle is not suggesting that we be grateful for disease or disharmony. Rather, it encourages us to be grateful in the midst of our human challenges.
What Science Tells Us
Researchers have found that when we express gratitude our para-sympathetic nervous system is triggered. This pattern, when repeated, has a protective effect on the heart. Electromagnetic heart patterns become more ordered as a direct response to our gratefulness.
There is compelling evidence from researchers like Tsang, Emmons, McCullough, and many other neurobiological researchers, that an attitude of gratitude reduces the risk of coronary artery disease and hypertension.
Neurobiologically speaking, gratitude is nestled within the same frontal regions of the brain which are activated by awe, wonder, transcendence, and joy. An internal coherence results, which fortifies our immune system. From these cortical and limbic structures come dopamine and serotonin – the chemicals for feeling good inside!
Gratitude is a total body, mind, and soul experience. It comes from that part of the brain – the amygdala – that registers ‘soul’ experiences. So, when we walk along our favorite beaches and feel the sand under our feet and the breeze blowing through our hair, or drive along that country highway and see the Fall colors, or step outside at night and admire the canopy of stars overhead, or enjoy an experience together with friends, our souls sing and our bodies are revitalized with streams of dopamine and serotonin, the biological gifts of gratitude.
Feeling gratitude on a regular basis heals us at a cellular level. So you see, being grateful is not Pollyanna and it’s not to be taken lightly. It’s serotonin to our Soul and medicine for our body.
Gratefulness is one of our deepest connections to Spirit. It acknowledges our oneness with and appreciation for the Divine of us. It is the realization that there is more to us than the circumstances we face. It is the recognition that we have a lot to be thankful for despite outer appearances.
Expressing gratitude does not mean that we are saying everything in life is fine or that we should resign ourselves to our fate – whatever that means. When we open ourselves to experience the delight of being grateful, we strengthen our resolve to live peacefully, and harmoniously, and joyfully, and appreciatively. Gratitude puts a smile on our face and a spring in our step.
A Dozen Ways to Add Gratitude as a Spiritual Practice
#1 – Set an intention of expressing thanks to another person at least once every day.
#2 –Send a letter or email to an old friend you have lost touch with, and include a happy memory of why you are grateful for their friendship.
#3 – Take a moment to be fully present to your surroundings and breathe in the beauty of where you are. (No matter where you are, find something there that is beautiful, amazing, or special.)
#4 – Instead of focusing on things you want, express gratitude for things you have.
#5 – Love and appreciate yourself, exactly the way you are right now.
#6 – Look for ways to forgive the past and share your love.
#7 – When you encounter a service provider who is grumpy, take an extra minute to say something kind, or funny, or empathetic.
#8 – Create a list of all the people you are grateful for — and at least three reasons why for each one.
#9 – Leave thank you notes along with your tip at restaurants, identifying at least one specific thing your wait-person did that you noticed and appreciated.
#10 – Create a collage filled with words and pictures of things for which you are grateful.
#11 – When someone irritates you, take a deep breath and focus on a positive trait about that person — then send them the energy of gratitude and love.
#12 – Say YES to a request from a friend, and remind them how important they are to you.
BONUS! At the end of every day, identify at least three things from the day for which you are grateful — and at least three ways you showed gratitude to others.