thankfulness and joy

I am learning to be grateful.

Research shows that people who show gratitude are healthier, sleep better than their peers, have better relationships, and generally have more productive lives. One such research test was done at the University of Manchester, England, where 401 people filled out questionnaires that rated their gratitude. The response showed those who scored highest in gratefulness slept longer and better than less-appreciative participants. Ta-daa! Facts to back up an argument.

"Thankfulness is an outpouring of the very root of the soul". It reveals peace, contentment, goodwill. Too often I am unthankful or discontent, only to be plagued with these thoughts at bedtime, waking up with a heavy heart and a long day ahead. The consequences are endless. But thankfulness...thankfulness is joyful and peaceful and wholesome. And it is contagious! How often is it that a friend's smile and cheerful attitude brightens your day? Something that is an act of will, a chosen attitude, something that is so simple, and something that is the key to honoring, obeying and loving God and others.

Thankfulness is an act of will. It is a conscious decision that God and this day is worthy and deserving of praise and adoration, no matter the circumstances. It is choosing to walk past the negative thoughts and fears and and in to a place of contentment with what is and hope for what will be. It creates fertile soils in which mercy, gentleness, love and kindness grow. It leads us to a place where we recognise our blessings and are led to want to bless others with what we have in return.

On the flip side, I think that discontent creates unhappiness. We tell ourselves all the things that aren't so, or that we wish were different. We entertain dreams of greener grass and we wish that the person just wouldn't do this or that. And we house this negative energy. We tell ourselves that nothing is quite good enough, and we tell others that too. It creates a breeding ground for insecurity, a lack of trust and worst of all, joyless relationships. 

But the scariest thing is when discontent and unthankfulness take root in our souls, and we become bitter. Bitterness causes us to perceive hurt. We become defensive, snappy, and hollow. A young child grows up in a home and sees his parents acting bitterly towards one another because of past hurts. He then grows up seeing the world through their discontent and bitter eyes and it taints everything; his career, his love life, his spirituality. Because bitterness is toxic. He marries and his wife walks on edge, wondering what will set him off. He craves love but he is unsatisfied, he is hurt. And so the cycle goes on, one toxic relationship after another, one broken person hurting another, all because we are yearning for something more.

Don't let unthankfulness and bitterness eat away at your soul. Instead, choose to fill it with joy and laughter and gratitude. Ask yourself, what is it with your life that makes you unthankful or that you feel discontent with? And then declare war on unthankfulness. Change what you can; pursue the healing of relationships, and yourself. Choose to laugh when you feel like crying. Choose to love when you find yourself wanting to run away in hurt. When you feel sad, depressed, frustrated or discontent, stop and think "why do I feel like this? How do I choose to feel in light of this?" and thank God that you are alive, blessed, and empowered to break the chain of unthankfulness.

Our lives are meant to be full of rejoicing, gladness, thankfulness and joy. As one of my lecturers says, you have to laugh because otherwise you'd cry! I have been learning this, and am still in the process of learning. I have found that instead of being obsessed with what is broken, I want to be a woman who's smile is ready, who is quick to laugh, and who is constantly loving. I want to be able to empathise with brokenness and then I want to be able to hope for new and beautiful things. I am of no use to anyone when I am sad and discontent with the state of the world. Instead, I can walk with fire in my step, passion in my heart, a smile on my lips and my arms wide open. And I am able to do this only by the grace of God. 

So take a moment to think...what is it in your world that fills you with joy and thankfulness?

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