It’s not a coincidence that within a couple of weeks I read two unrelated yet related articles.
The first was titled Thankfulness Protects Against PTSD. (1) It reported on research that shows thankfulness and gratitude are often one of the responses to tragedy – that in the aftermath of tragedy gratitude helps us grow. “The results of the study showed that the individuals who already had higher levels of gratitude before the shooting were better able to turn their post-traumatic stress into growth. This is actually quite profound. It suggests that if we can help ourselves and others feel more grateful on a daily basis, we can actually prime ourselves to handle the trauma that life will inevitably bring.”
Researchers briefly listed two implications. One is that building gratitude is often an overlooked component of therapy. “Furthermore, findings indicate that mental health professionals should also consider post trauma interventions targeted at enhancing gratitude, thus helping trauma exposed individuals adopt a new, more adaptive perspective regarding their experience, further leading to PTG and positive outcomes in spite of trauma.”
The second is “The church as a whole could also play a part in building a greater communal sense of thankfulness.”
The second article which grabbed my attention was titled Research Shows That Physically Complaining Rewires Your Brain To Be Depressed And Anxious. (2) “According to Clemson University Professor of Psychology, Dr. Robin Kowalski, everyone complains from time to time, but should try to minimize it as much as possible. Bouts of negativity are normal and encouraged to reset our systems. But what you want to be mindful of, is if you are being excessively negative. Remember this: negativity breeds negativity…Negativity Rewires Your Brain…Donald Hebb, a Neuropsychologist, hypothesized that neurons which fire together, wire together. Meaning groups of neurons connect in our brain as a result of particular life experiences…Whenever we think a thought or have a feeling or physical sensation, thousands of neurons are triggered and form an internal neural network. The brain learns to trigger the same neurons with repetitive thinking. That said, we become what we think and say. If you focus on feelings / thoughts of criticism, worry, and victimization, it is much easier for your brain to call those things to the surface. This can lead to serious depression and anxiety.”
The article then lists ‘4 Tricks to Avoid Negativity.’ First on the list is “Show thanks: Even for the little things.” Which, of course, sent my mind back to the first article. The common link: Thankfulness is good for our health. I believe the authors of The Heidelberg Catechism knew this truth. They divided their Christian doctrine into three successive sections: Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude. They believed that once we understand our guilt and the grace of God through Jesus Christ we are empowered to live a life of thankfulness. And what are the components of this thankful living? In this section they included the 10 commandments (not as law but as an expression of thanks) and the Lord’s Prayer. In other words, to develop thankful living live life as God designed it.
The apostle Paul grasped it as well. He wrote, ”Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9) What more can I say?
(1) CT online 8-11-17 – (2) www.healthspiritbody.com/complaining-causes-depression-anxiety