Did you know that gratitude has been scientifically studied? In just the last 10 years, there have been hundreds of studies that have documented the social, physical, and psychological benefits of gratitude. The graphic and the following text all point to some of the benefits of practicing gratitude:
Gratitude brings us happiness and reduces anxiety and depression. Gratitude is good for our bodies: strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, and makes us less bothered by aches and pains. It also encourages us to exercise more and take better care of our health. Grateful people sleep better. They get more hours of sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more refreshed upon waking. If you want to sleep more soundly, count blessings, not sheep. Gratitude makes us more resilient. It has been found to help people recover from traumatic events. Gratitude strengthens relationships. It makes us feel closer and more committed to friends and family. When families feel and express gratitude for each other, they each become more satisfied with their relationship. Gratitude promotes forgiveness. Grateful people are more helpful, altruistic, and compassionate.
Who would not want to sign up for all these benefits? Self-interest alone should be motivation enough. But there is a deeper reason for people of faith to be grateful.
Part of the Eucharistic Prayer holds the words: “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.” It is a very ancient prayer, a berakoth, received from the Jewish tradition of prayer. In our liturgical context, it is a prayer of praise and gratitude. We affirm that the very gifts we are about to offer in the Eucharist, are but gifts we received from the very One to who we will make the offer. Its words and meaning carry the most intrinsic values that make up gratitude. It is an affirmation of goodness, not just in the gifts we receive, but in the created make-up of the world in which we live. It is also an acknowledgement that the source of goodness is outside us. In our prayer, we confess God is the source, a fountain full of unlimited grace and blessing into the world – and we are called to return it – and so we boldly bless God. Then we break bread together. The Eucharist is a profoundly communal moment in which, having praised God, we share the blessing, not just with each other, but also to carry the blessing into our lives. We are called to take this profound moment of gratitude and make it part of our moral memory that will shape our lives and the lives of the people we encounter.
There you have it. Over the last couple of weeks, I have used this column space to help you think about gratitude from a spiritual, biblical, and Eucharistic perspective. I invited you to take some time to watch two online videos (Br. David and Soul Pancake). I have pointed to studies that show your life will benefit immensely from consciously cultivating gratitude in your life. So, savor the good in your life, keep a gratitude journal, write that gratitude letter, and give praise and thanks to God in your daily prayer.
Blessed are you Lord God of all creation. Through your goodness I have love, family, friends, this community, and so much more.