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The Surprising Benefits of Gratitude, by Crystal Williamson, LCSW

Over the last several years, a trend has appeared in social media where many people take time each day in November to write a post expressing gratitude for something in their lives.  This popular trend makes use of a strategy that therapists have recommended to their clients for many years.  You may be surprised to hear that experiencing and expressing gratitude has positive effects on both your mental health and physical health. 

Participating in some form of daily gratitude exercise, such as writing down things you are grateful for or sending letters of gratitude to people in your life, has shown in research studies to improve symptoms of depression and increase overall happiness with lasting effects.  Many therapists incorporate gratitude exercises into their work with clients by suggesting a journal or notepad where the client can take a few minutes each day to write down something for which they are grateful.

Gratitude has also been linked to greater patience and better decision making.  If you are making gratitude a part of your regular routine, you may find that you are able to make wiser choices with your money and your time.   Regular feelings of gratitude for the things you already have may make it easier to say no to the instant gratification of buying something new.  Recognizing that you are grateful for your loved ones may influence you to spend more quality time with them.

An attitude of gratitude can also have a tremendous effect on your relationships.  Expressing and receiving gratitude in daily interactions with a spouse has been connected to increases in relationship connection and satisfaction.  Telling your spouse or other people in your life “thank you” for the big and small things that they do can be a springboard for more positive interactions in the relationship. 

Gratitude has physical benefits, too, like helping you sleep better.  A study done in the U.K. found that people who showed traits of gratitude had longer and better quality sleep than those who didn’t.  These people also had more positive thoughts before going to sleep and this seemed to have an effect.  So, the old song that said, “Count your blessings instead of sheep,” seems to be onto something.  If you want to start a daily routine of gratitude, it may be most beneficial to do this at night just before bed.  Other studies have shown that gratitude can reduce pain and even decrease blood pressure!  

As Christians, we learn that God wants us to show thanks as well.  The Bible repeats the command over and over, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!” (1 Chronicles 16:34 NLT) Through the Psalms, God states that “giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.” (Psalm 50:23 NLT).  There are many reasons for us to express our gratitude to God. We thank Him for what He has done for us and how He has helped us in our lives.  We can thank Him for his creation that we see all around us.  We thank Him for the blessings in our lives.  Even Jesus set the example of taking time to thank God for His provision, and we often take time before we eat to pray and thank God for the food we have been blessed to have.  We can thank Him for our own life.  We give thanks for our salvation that was given to us as a gift because of the great sacrifice that Jesus made in His death.  Gratitude is part of our daily worship experience whether we are singing songs or praying silently.  The apostle Paul encourages us, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)  When we have an attitude of thankfulness in our relationship with God, we are recognizing that all that we have truly belonged to Him first and have been given to us as gifts to be used for the glory of God.

Social media is not required to make expressions of gratitude part of your daily routine, although some people may find that it keeps them more accountable if they are participating in this exercise along with other friends.  If you would rather keep your thoughts private, you can keep a small journal near your bed and write down a grateful thought or prayer each night.  Or others may do fine to just take a moment before they go to sleep to quietly think about one or two things they are thankful for from that day.  If you are grateful for people in your life, or things that you recognize that they do to help you, make a point to thank them and tell them how grateful you are for them as you see opportunities each day.  Use your words, send a text, or write an old-fashioned letter and mail it.  The point is to find a way to incorporate a routine of gratitude that will work for you and then stick with it for a few weeks or longer, and watch to see how it positively impacts your mood and life.


Algoe, S., Gable, S., & Maisel, N. (2010). It’s the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. Personal Relationships, 17(2), June 2010, 217-233.

Dickens, L., & DeSteno, D. (2016). The grateful are patient: Heightened daily gratitude is associated with attenuated temporal discounting. Emotion, 16(4), 421-425.

Ducharme, J. (2017). 7 Surprising Health Benefits of Gratitude. Time, November 22, 2017.

Gander, F., Proyer, R., Willibald, R., & Wyss, T. (2012). Strength-based Positive Interventions: Further Evidence for Their Potential in Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depression. Springer Science+Business Media B.V., 2012.

Wong, J. & Brown, J. (2017). How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain. Greater Good Magazine, June 2017.

Wood, A., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Adkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(1), January 2009, 43-48.


Teachers that Bully, by Traci Poe

A couple of hours ago, I was watching the Voice and one of the contestants said that she had been bullied in high school, but not by other students. Instead, she had been bullied by teachers.

The sad truth is that over the last several years, I have heard of some teachers doing just that, bullying students. My kids have experienced it first hand, as well as witnessing it happening to their classmates. I've had their friends tell me stories. I've had parents tell me stories.

I love my teacher friends and can't imagine any of them doing this, but it seems that more and more teachers are saying and doing some very mean things to their students. It also seems, in some cases, administration turns their head and refuses to deal with it.

If you are a teacher that actually cares about your students, stand your ground! You are making a difference in the lives of kids who have other teachers ripping them apart. If you are a teacher who builds up your students, who wants them to succeed, who is their cheerleader, I am a mom who says, "THANK YOU!!! Please don't stop!"

You Are Not My Parent, by Traci Poe

With five kids, all in their teenage years, one thing that I find myself saying from time-to-time is, "You are not my parent." Or, yet another one, "You don't get to parent me; I am the parent."

It bothers me when my kids try telling me what to do, or when my kids try scolding me. I don't like it when they correct me, or act like they get to run things in our home. They are not the parent, I am the parent.

But, something dawned on me this morning during a time of praying over them and my husband. As I was praying over one specific situation, I realized I try the same thing on God that my kids try on me. From time-to-time, I try telling God what He should do. I try scolding God. I try treating Him like I run things in His home.

Thank you, Lord, for showing me that I was trying to parent You. I am not Your parent. Thank you for being mine.

A Zebra is Known by Its Stripes, by Kimberly Trask

My reputation does not precede me. It's not too far behind me, however.

The second week of school, I overheard our secretary telling a student they would need to "talk to the counselor, Mrs. Trask," about their concern.

"Who's that?" the student asked.

The reply: "She's the one with all the cool shoes."

"Oh, yeah! Okay."

There are worse things to be known for. A quote found on many educational posters is: "Character is what you stand for. Reputation is what you fall for."

I guess I fall for shoes. And, yes, some would say that my "gracefulness" indicates I sometimes FALL in shoes. But the question comes to my mind: What am I known for - my character or my reputation?

Jesus told His disciples, "'By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another'" (John 13:35 NIV) In the next chapter, Jesus provides another tell-tale sign of His disciples: "'Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me'...'If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching'" (John 14:21, 23 NIV).

Love and obedience out of love - character.

Then, the often sermonized passage in John 15:

Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing...If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. THIS IS TO MY FATHER'S GLORY, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples (John 15:4-5, 7-8 NIV, emphasis added).

Love in action - character.

So how do we show character, love in action; how do we "bear fruit?" For those of us who tend to be obsessive-compulsive and like step-by-step instructions to make sure we don't mess up, the apostle Paul laid it out in Romans, chapter 12:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal...keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction (OUCH - stepped on my toes!), faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you...Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony...Do not be proud...Do not be conceited. Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right...IF IT IS POSSIBLE, AS FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU, LIVE AT PEACE WITH EVERYONE (emphasis added). Do not take revenge...Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12: 9-21).

You can't force someone to be "at peace" with you. But you sure can control what you bring into the relationship. I think our school's principal would rephrase that as "Don't stir the pot," or "Don't feed the drama monster." Being the "spoon" (aka "stirring the pot") is a reputation; living at peace with everyone when it is possible and as far as it depends on you, is character.

Did you catch the first part? "Love must be sincere."

Pretty tall order. Pretty impossible to do 100% of the time. Pretty impossible any time we try on our own. What did Jesus say in John 15? "Apart from Me you can do nothing...Remain in Me...bear much the Father's glory...showing yourselves to be My disciples." Paul described the "fruit" Christ said we would bear if we "remain in [Him]." (Also see Galatians 5:22-23.)

It all goes back to love: love God, love others, obedience out of love, love in action. That is character. It is pretty easy to spot. About as easy as finding a zebra in a herd of horses.

Sittin' Shoes, by Kimberly Trask

These are some of my favorite shoes, but they're "sittin' shoes."

I get lots of complements when I wear them, but I basically only wear them when I will be sitting a lot. They look good, but they are not very comfortable. I can wear them to walk around, but my feet hurt before too long. Just because I can doesn't mean I should.

I like to do things for people. Give things, make things, help with things. I commit myself to many projects. Sometimes too many. Just because I can doesn't mean I should.

I love my job. I love my kids (students). I have a tendency to want to "mother" them, take on their problems, fix their hurts, "bandage" their wounds. Just because I can doesn't mean I should.

God calls us to a ministry He has designed us for. He gives us skills and talents, interests and concerns, that can be used for other ministries. Good ministries. Worthwhile ministries. But not necessarily what He has called us to. Just because we can doesn't mean we should.

Jesus told His disciples about a man who entrusted his servants with his property to manage while he was on a trip (Matthew 25:14-30). Each servant received a different amount, "each according to his ability." Two of the servants were good stewards of the property with which they were entrusted.

That is what God wants of each of us: for us to be good stewards of what He has given us. Not just physical blessings, not just our money or property, but our time, our talents, our skills, our interests. When we try to do everything we can think of that is worth doing, we are not necessarily being good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. He desires we use what He has given us "each according to [our] ability," to fulfill the mission/ministry for which He calls us. When we burn the candle at both ends (like I often do), we misuse the resources He has given us, even though what we are doing may be very good.

Just because we can doesn't mean we should.

Maybe God will remind me of that each time I wear my "sittin' shoes."

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