A friend of mine once said, "Don't dwell on the things you don't have - that's too long a list. Dwell on what you do have - that's a long list, too."
Technology and modern conveniences, medicine, family and friends, health, God, education, food and shelter are blessings that most people appreciate but forget to regularly acknowledge.
After all, "Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted," said English author Aldous Huxley.
Remembering to count our blessings isn't just a nice thought. Here are three reasons why gratitude improves our lives.
1. Gratitude buoys our hearts
Several times during my life I've been prompted to keep a gratitude journal, or record daily something that I'm thankful for. I used to brush off the idea as frivolous or unnecessary. I thought it was a sweet notion, but not really worth my time.
When I did finally start jotting down one blessing each night, I started to look forward to the few minutes that I could reflect on the good in my life. Some blessings were trivial and some were substantial, but each was significant in a meaningful way. I realized that my life has been shaped by many influential people. I took the journal experience a step further and wrote quick notes to some people who have blessed my life and mean the world to me.
This experience of expressing gratitude helped me feel a sweet, profound joy. A pen, notebook and just five minutes each night lifted my heart and attitude.
2. We recognize God's hand
True, we often turn to God in times of distress. When life's challenges ambush and overwhelm us, we seek God for comfort, aid and blessings. But, remembering to seek him when life is rosy is just as important. Giving thanks for his tender mercies - a lovely day, a promotion at work, a new friend, a healthy baby - helps us to humbly acknowledge his presence during the ups of life.
Thomas S. Monson, leader of a worldwide church, said, "To express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven."
3. Our health is improved
A thankful heart can be a preventative measure against illness. An article titled Three Great Reasons to Give Thanks by John Hilton III and Anthony Sweat refers to the connection between gratitude and wellness.
"Did you know that literally counting your blessings increases your emotional health? Researchers had one group of students write for 20 minutes each day about things they were grateful for, a second about things they were angry about and a third about random topics like the color of their shoes. Guess which group was happiest at the end of the experiment? The ones who wrote about things they were grateful for of course! Even more interesting is that those who wrote about the things they were grateful for were less likely to be sick throughout the semester."
The powers of positive thinking and gratitude play major roles in our emotional and physical health.
Even if we feel that we don't have much, dwelling on the blessings God has bestowed helps us to shift our attitudes. We experience happier hearts, recognize God's hand and enjoy improved health.