The true story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving is one to examine more closely. What’s unusual is that these Christians gave thanks to God first and then to their Native American friends, after the most difficult year of their lives. Their gratitude was shown in the greatest of trials. Their attitude reveals the healing power of gratitude.
Imagine being close to starvation, losing half your family, needing warmth and shelter, fearing strangers in a new land, and at times wondering if your journey was worth the sacrifices and losses. Yet, these Godly people practiced daily gratitude. And so should we—even in the deepest trials of our lives.
The Apostle Paul instructed us to “give thanks in all things” as he wrote from his prison cell. Cancer can be like living in a prison cell. Your entire life is arrested as you face uncertainties, fears of death, financial difficulties, unending treatments, and alienation. However, my four walls forced me to re-evaluate my life and draw closer to God and my spouse. It also caused me to look deeper into my lifestyle habits. What was I doing that contributed to my cancer diagnosis?
Dr. Daniel Amen has done some interesting research in how our thoughts impact our brain and health. Using images from SPECT scans of the brain, he found that practicing gratitude actually causes real brain changes that enhance brain function and makes us feel better.
He concluded, “Where you bring your attention, determines how you feel and how your brain performs. Your thoughts can make you feel great or make you feel sad, forgetful, and clumsy.” Practicing gratitude actually calms the emotional brain. And when we can calm the emotional brain in the midst of a storm, we promote healing.
Dr. Amen is one of many doctors promoting expressing gratitude daily as a lifestyle practice. He promotes gratitude as our best Prozac medication because it has an up side, but no down side.
Is it any wonder that the Apostle Paul also gave us these instructions during tough times?
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest,
Whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,
Whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report,
If there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.
The art of practicing daily gratitude should not stop when cancer (or any disease) appears at your doorstep. There are always things to be thankful for. Surviving chemotherapy was a blessing even when I saw my bald reflection in my mirror. My husband was a wonderful gift to me, loving me unconditionally when my external cover was not so appealing. The more I looked the more blessings I found. Every day is a gift.
Many times, we overlook the simple blessings around us—the ones we tend to take for granted. I’d like to close with this video produced by a church in Charlotte last year. It now has over 8 million views. The message is profound. Each of us is a gift to one another. This video also encourages us to never forget the many simple blessings we experience each day. May we use our blessings to bless others. That is the healing power of gratitude.
What simple things are you thankful for? Did you know that gratitude helps your body to heal?
Have a blessed Thanksgiving! Here’s to your emotional health!