Anson Sexton

Be Grateful.

Anson Sexton
Be Grateful.

Before you look at your phone…

Before you open that email…

Before you begin to absorb other people’s stories…

Before you are impacted by today’s headlines…

Before you read that (my) blog…

Before you listen to that podcast…

Before you stream that YouTube video…

Before you roll out of bed…

Before you eat breakfast…

Before you shower and put on deodorant…

Before you brush your teeth and get dressed for the day…

Before you sit in traffic…

Before you prepare your kids’ sack lunch…

Before you go to the gym…

Before you face the fears today holds…

BE GRATEFUL.

Gratitude can change your attitude. And more than that, gratitude can greatly affect your perspective and approach to life.

The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace. Gratitude is a satisfied appreciation for what you receive, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, we acknowledge the goodness in our lives. In the process, we usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside ourselves.

Gratitude helps you feel more confident emotions, savor entertaining experiences, improve your health, deal with difficulty, and develop strong relationships.

Two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, have done a lot of research regarding gratitude. In one study, they asked their participants to write a few sentences each week, concentrating on particular topics.

An article on Harvard’s website proclaims, “One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about day-to-day frustrations or things that had annoyed them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.”

In Harvard researcher and author Shawn Achor’s book Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change, he proclaims “Something as simple as writing down three things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism, and it holds for the next six months.”

That is amazing!

Often times, I struggle with whether optimism actually helps or hinders my progress in life. Sometimes I am convinced that a more pragmatic approach to life will suit me better than allowing myself to be optimistic. But research shows that optimism is a catalyst for positive change in our lives. And I have found in my own process that gratitude has been a source of optimism in my life. The practice of expressing my gratitude has begun to produce a positive change in many areas of my life I had thought were possibly irreconcilable.

There have been parts of my life that conflicted with other areas of my life. I had assumed that the points of contention were so incredibly different from each other, there was probably no way they could be made compatible. I had feared that issues of my past were plaguing the progress I desired for my present. What I have discovered, though, is my perception was a huge part of the problem.

When I start my day thinking about the stress I face, along with the dilemmas I need to overcome and the tasks that need to be completed — I become overwhelmed. I begin to knit-pick at all of the inadequacies within my character and abilities that I lack or are currently under developed. And all of this usually stems from how I start my day.

Even when I begin my day with thoughts and reflections upon that in which I’m grateful, all of the tension that lies before me in my day with stress, dilemmas, and tasks still remains. Yet, I have discovered that gratitude can greatly impact how I handle life’s roller coaster.

What are you grateful for? How has grace impacted your life?

Today, I am grateful for:

— Disneyland. My family has annual passes that are expiring soon, but the opportunities we’ve had this year to visit the Happiest Place on Earth have been such a wonderful treat.

— High-school friends. There is something about friendships that were developed in our formative years, which still flourish throughout our adult lives, that brings me great joy and satisfaction.

— Fishing. Some of my best memories with my Dad, my brothers, and my best friends involved dropping a line in the water and waiting for a nibble.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. — 1 Thessalonians 5:18