I hate the “D” words: Discouragement, disappointment, dissatisfaction, depression. Like all of us, there are moments in my life where I feel stuck in a rut. It’s so easy to become unhappy with where I am or what I have. It’s “the grass is always greener on the other side” mentality.
Things really started to change for me after a religious conference I attended. A leader of my faith said, “Take an inventory of your life and look specifically for the blessings, large and small, you have received” (Thomas S. Monson, “Consider the Blessings”).
After hearing those words, I decided I would start a gratitude journal. In a little spiral notebook, I wrote down at least one thing I was grateful for every night. It started off being easy; I mentioned my family, living in America, and my faith. Soon I had to start getting more creative. As I kept doing it every night, I noticed a huge change in my happiness. I have come to realize that happiness and gratitude go hand in hand for me.
This is not a new concept. Religions around the world have taught us to be grateful for centuries.
In the Tanakh, Jewish scripture, it is written, “Come into His gates with thanksgiving, [into] His courtyards with praise; give thanks to Him, bless His name” (Tehillim 100:4).
In the New Testament, Paul wrote to his fellow Christians, “With thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).
The Quran teaches, “God always rewards gratitude and He knows everything” (Quran 4:147).
The Book of Mormon says, “Live in thanksgiving daily for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38).
A Buddhist writing says, “Reverence, humility, contentment, gratitude, and the timely hearing of the Dhamma, the teaching of the Buddha — this is the highest blessing” (Maha-mangala Sutta: Blessings).
Believe it or not, scientific studies have even confirmed what religion has been teaching us for so long.
According to the Harvard Health Publications, two psychologists have conducted studies showing the positive effects of gratitude. “In one study, they asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them” (Harvey B. Simon, “Giving thanks can make you happier”).
Ten weeks later, the group who wrote about what they were grateful for had much better attitudes, were more optimistic, and they even visited the doctor’s office less often (Harvey B. Simon, “Giving thanks can make you happier”).
If we all lived what our faith taught about gratitude, we would be much happier!
Matthew Havertz loves storytelling and has worked for years in the media industry, specializing in videos and social media. He has a degree in digital media from Weber State University. He blogs his spiritual thoughts at HavertzPonders.blogspot.com.