November 9, 2017
Thankfulness and gratitude have been considered religious and spiritual practices for millennia. Every major religion speaks of the importance of gratitude. Gratitude, according to Heera and Sheetal Chaudhary (2014), “is an acknowledgment that we have received something of value from others.” (p. 528). The Reformer Martin Luther would agree with this modern day definition of gratitude. He believed that the connection between justice, gratitude, and faith was explained in the scripture ‘the just shall live by faith’ (Romans 1:17). Luther wrote that he realized that “the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith” (as cited in O’Callaghan, 2017, p.199). Theologians call this the doctrine of the justification of faith. Luther insisted that the essence of a moral life is through thankfulness to God, not out of compunction to God, but out of genuine thankfulness and appreciation.
Modern day researchers have found that living a life of gratitude improves lives in the psychological, social, spiritual, physical, and cognitive realms (Wilson, 2016). From a psychological perspective, those people who are able to place their experiences within a framework of gratitude actually experience more positive emotions. They also have lower levels of stress and are generally happier with their interpersonal relationships. Furthermore, gratitude seems to strengthen relationships, as people collaborate and support one another. Our bodies respond well to gratitude. Gratitude is linked to more physical energy, healthier hearts, better sleep, and longevity. People who practice thankfulness also benefit cognitively, with more alertness, higher focus, greater creativity for problem-solving; and people who are grateful are more appreciative of the learning process. Spiritually, the practice of gratitude brings people closer to their vision of a Higher Power. Some people seem to be more grateful than others, yet with practice and intention, gratitude can be learned and cultivated. Since “gratitude is foundational to well being and mental health” (H. Chaudhary, & S., 2014, p. 528), one might consider their cognitive, relational, spiritual, physical, and mental health well-being in light of their practice of gratitude.
Questions for Reflection:
- What are my thoughts and beliefs about gratitude?
- When are the times I practice gratitude?
- How might I be more grateful?
R. David Johns has a PhD in Counseling Education and Supervision, and a Master’s Degree in Counseling. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) in the state of Colorado. He works with people to better understand their psychological, social, spiritual, physical, and cognitive realms in order to live a more productive and creative life. For an appointment call 303-642-6636 or email at [email protected]
Chaudhary, H., & Chaudhary, S. (2014). Positive emotions, resilience, gratitude and forgiveness: Role of positive psychology in 21st century. Indian Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(4), 528.
Wilson, J. T. (2016). Brightening the mind: The impact of practicing gratitude on focus and resilience in learning. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 16(4), 1-13.
O'Callaghan, P. (2017). Luther and ‘sola gratia’: The rapport between grace, human freedom, good works and moral life. Scripta Theologica, 49(1), 193-212.