Many families across the nation will gather around their dining room table on Nov. 23 for a holiday that is all about turkey and saying “thank you”: Thanksgiving. While Thanksgiving is far from a religious celebration, its themes of gratitude, family and fellowship are closely tied to biblical themes.
Lori Dubyak, office manager for Spiritual Life, shared the significance of gratitude in our lives and well-being as Christians. She shared how an attitude of thankfulness can affect us physiologically, such as by improving sleep, mood, health and emotional regulation.
Daily gratitude can enrich our lives and lead us to become more fulfilled. Dubyak shared several ways to put thankfulness into practice on a daily basis.
“Each morning, before looking at your phone or even getting out of bed, think of three things you are thankful for,” Dubyak said. “Text or write a note to a different person you know each day to tell them why you are thankful for them.”
Dubyak explained that it is God’s will for our lives that we maintain a posture of thankfulness always. This idea can be found in Philippians 4:6-8, Psalm 28:7 and Psalm 69:30. She shared that the key to constant gratitude is rooted in thinking and meditating on all God has done for us.
“Think of his provisions throughout your life even in the hard times,” Dubyak said. “Reflect on the fact that you have air in your lungs to breathe and that you have been given the ability to form thoughts with your brain.”
Our busy lives often make it difficult to live a life characterized by gratitude, which is why Dubyak encourages students to make habits of intentional gratitude a part of their daily routines.
“Thankfulness in the right order is important. Thankfulness to God first and for most. Showing thankfulness for people and the earth that God has created in our actions toward them,” Dubyak said.
Hannah Woods, counseling psychology graduate student, shared how gratitude can lead to greater contentment and life satisfaction.
“When we are thankful for the things that we have we are not constantly seeking more and more,” Woods said. “Thankfulness stems from our ability to appreciate our current status in this world. Those who have this quality of thankfulness tend to be more optimistic, altruistic and overall pleased with life. This thankfulness can be displayed in their jobs, relationships and even their spirituality.”
Woods explained that one of the most practical ways to practice gratitude as Christians is to thank God for who he is and all he has done through prayer.
“We can also use what he has provided us, whether that’s gifts, talents or money, to use for the spreading of His kingdom on earth,” Woods said. “This can look like serving in the church, donating to the church or charities or using your talents to fulfill a need.”
As a Christian studying psychology, Woods pointed out some notable parallels between these two realms of her life, specifically on the topic of thankfulness.
“Both the Bible and psychology speak to how thankfulness can provide a better outlook on life and provide a healthier mindset for individuals to function in,” Woods said. “I think this big correlation is important to touch on because how we view our lives and the things in them can alter how we function. With an attitude of thankfulness, we are not only fulfilling what the Lord calls us to do but also setting ourselves up for a healthier psyche.”
Humans are prone to focus more on the negatives in life rather than the positives. Practicing gratitude helps one counteract their natural tendency to be pessimistic about their lives.
“Christ calls us as believers to be an example to those in this world, and with a grateful heart we are able to be the light of Christ and promote a positive attitude to a world that is so corrupted,” Woods said.
In order to maintain a grateful attitude year-round, rather than just on Thanksgiving, Woods encouraged her peers to write down specific things they are grateful for. She explained that these should be specific to our lives that one can intentionally dwell and meditate on.
“Truly contemplate the things that you are grateful for and vocalize that, especially if it is a person,” Woods said. “We don’t compliment, acknowledge or celebrate our thankfulness for people, places or things enough.”
Marissa Hopper, sophomore double major in psychology and sociology, explained how thankfulness is one of the most important ways to be happy mentally and physically.
Hopper shared that gratitude can best be practiced by appreciating all we have, never taking anything for granted, living each day as it comes and not worrying about tomorrow.
“When we are with and close to God, we tend to have a better sense of thankfulness,” Hopper said. “When you are thankful and have a lot of gratitude for everything it’s hard to be discouraged. It’s the thing that keeps us going in a world that wants us to stop and give up.”
A grateful heart reminds us of God’s love, goodness and faithfulness in our lives despite our circumstances. Hopper explained that no matter what struggle we experience, God is working for our good and will one day deliver us from all pain and trials in life.
“There is always calm in the midst of a storm,” Hopper said. “If you always focus on the bad things happening in life, you will never know how good the good things really are. It is important to look at every day and find something — no matter how small — and be thankful you have it.”