Each Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of all the benefits that come from giving thanks.
In fact, Howard Hendricks used to recommend “Thanksgiving Therapy.” He suggested writing the phrase “I’m thankful for…” on a pad of paper, then listing all the specific reasons you’re grateful.
It’s a powerful exercise. Try it and you’ll discover—as I have—that Dr. Hendricks’ advice produces at least eight profound benefits!
1. Giving thanks can shift your outlook. If you find yourself obsessing over problems, the simple act of giving thanks can spark a mental shift. It’s impossible to fixate on bad things when your mind is busy focusing on good things.
2. Giving thanks can reduce stress. As your mindset gradually shifts from a 100% problem focus to even just a 50-50 problem/blessing focus, you will likely experience your stress levels decreasing.
3. Giving thanks can rein in wild emotions. Emotions are the early warning systems in our lives (for good and for bad). While helpful when monitored and understood, emotions can be disastrous when uncontrolled.
Imagine allowing a wild hog to roam free inside your house all weekend. My guess is you’d come home to unwanted messes in all sorts of places. In a similar way, unchecked emotions leave fear, cynicism, and distrust in all the wrong places.
Again, the simple act of giving thanks trains our emotions to notice the positive, not just the negative. Before long, we find fear giving way to peace and even optimism.
4. Giving thanks can improve your relationships. Negative people often struggle relationally. The reason isn’t hard to figure out. Negativity repels others. But when you grow in thankfulness, people in your life start realizing you’re grateful for them! And who doesn’t like being where they’re appreciated?
5. Giving thanks can open your mind to creative possibilities. Negative thoughts have a way of “clouding” our minds. And when we can’t see, we tend to hunker down and get cautious.
Expressing gratitude acts to blow those dark clouds away. Thankfulness opens our minds to possibilities we’ve been unable to see, or that we’ve forgotten. This, in turn, unleashes the extraordinary creativity we all possess—but which too many of us keep stifled under a million negative thoughts.
6. Giving thanks can make your world bigger. A problem-filled world seems small and oppressive. A possibility-filled world feels big and expansive. In a real sense, when you open up gratefully to the world, the world opens up to you. As you look for reasons to be thankful (some might call this optimism), the world starts to feel limitless.
7. Giving thanks can help identify solutions. This expanding world holds all sorts of solutions for the circumstances in your life you now call problems.
I’m not suggesting that a naïve, Pollyanna approach to life will rid you of your problems. Quite the opposite actually. Many of our problems will never fully go away. For those, we need as much help as possible.
I’ve found that giving thanks often begins the process of helping me find the solutions I need to cope with the intractable problems I face.
8. Giving thanks reminds you of your priorities. A problem-focused person has only one priority – keeping track of all their problems. That’s not what any of us would choose (if we could always see clearly). Sadly, it’s what many of us subconsciously choose, most days.
What’s most important in your life? Are you giving thanks for that today?
Pull out that sheet of paper. Spend 30 minutes doing a little “Thanksgiving Therapy.”
When you’re done, I suspect you’ll be grateful for one more thing:
The amazing power of the simple act of giving thanks.
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