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The Science and Spirituality of Gratitude

In our world today, scientific research is teaching us about what happens to our bodies, our brains and our souls when we practice the ancient, spiritual discipline of gratitude. Gratitude, giving thanks, offering praise is something seen plainly throughout the Scriptures. Consider the letter to the churches written by the apostle Paul. Over and over he encourages his readers to simply say, "Thank you!" One example is in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, he writes, Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.

It's possible when we consider gratitude we can, in a flash, think of all kinds of things for which we are certainly not thankful for! This should come as no surprise; we are not a culture inclined toward gratitude. We are saturated with everything - more calories, more intoxicants, more technology, more credit and just about every kind of excess we can imagine. And in the midst of this excess we are bombarded with the constant message that we need...more. Of course, this is simply another way of saying, we don't have enough.

One of the most powerful ways to break this cycle of excess and silence the message of "more" is through the practice of gratitude. In 2015, the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern California studied the human brain to explore the practice of gratitude. They found regions in both hemispheres of the brain engaged when gratitude was expressed; specifically, the area of the brain connected to relational bonding, generating meaning, and emotional perception. And it wasn't just positive emotions. Practicing gratitude also created a healthier body.

In other words, "always giving thanks" is good for us at the neural level, for our spirituality, our emotions, our bodies, our relationships and our world. So, may you, my friend, practice saying the words, "Thank you, thank you, thank you." May you give thanks in all circumstances so you will become deeply connected to the God who has given you all things. And may you have eyes to see that you have enough, and know, deep in your bones, that you are enough, and in all of this, may you become a greater witness of all our good God has given to us in this world.

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