I’ve been thinking about gratitude as we approach the national holiday of Thanksgiving. The science of gratitude is a growing concern in my field of psychology these days and has been studied more intensely for the last two decades. Lots of studies now show that gratitude is good for the grateful person in both psychological and physiological ways. In the way of scientific inquiry, we have been measuring every variable we can to quantify the process of being grateful. I think all this boils down to a rather simple idea: it’s a very good idea to give thanks. You don’t have to do this in a church like Circle of Hope to gain benefits, but I’ve found it immeasurably helpful to be around people who practice this art of giving thanks. It helps me focus and sustain this practice that is so helpful to living a healthy life.
The studies actually say that we can practice gratitude even when we may feel depleted or sad or even mad. We can let our mind move to aspects of the people we know (even the most irritating of them!) that we can identify as good—something to be thankful for. This takes effort, but need not be inauthentic or an exercise in repression or swallowing our anger. I’ve found this practice of naming the good to be very helpful in the recent weeks of political upheaval. In my cell group meeting just this week, I felt more hopeful because I began to hear from others about what they are grateful for even while we were talking about what we feared related to the election results. One guy in my group said it plainly, “So it seems like we’re talking about stuff we can be grateful for.”
So this week as many people gather with families that might be divided as our country seems fractured, I’m grateful for the reminder to meet others looking for good and honestly looking to practice gratitude. We can differ and still give thanks. We can disagree and still practice the art of gratitude. It’s good for us!
-Gwen White, writing