Gratitude: the intersection of faith, politics and psychology

The other day I was catching up on my podcasts, listening to Freakonomics with the title “Why is my life so hard?” http://freakonomics.com/podcast/why-is-my-life-so-hard/

Using psychological research called the headwinds-tailwinds asymmetry, they spoke about how many people find their lives more difficult than they need to be. We frequently discount the positive factors in our life and focus on the negative. While evolutionarily this might have had some use, ensuring that we are aware of threats to our existence, in our modern lives this can be a challenge. The result is that we all carry an unnecessary burden. We assume our political party is handicapped by the electoral college. We imagine our team’s schedule disadvantages them. We protect ourselves in work or school by claiming we didn’t have enough time or study enough.

Amazingly enough, there is a very simple solution:gratitude. Keeping a gratitude diary, meeting weekly with someone to share our written thanks can change everything. When I think of my faith, much of the effort is on reminding us of the importance of giving thanks. We are encouraged to say one hundred blessings a day, to find gratitude from the biggest things to the smallest. To appreciate our family,  to appreciate our very existence. To notice the flowers in bloom, the sun shining, the water flowing.

Some days the world can seem dark.  The news can seem uncertain, yet even in the depths of our despair, there is much to be grateful for.  This gratitude may even inspire us to action.  How can we ensure that those who do not have enough to eat are supported?  How can we help the homeless find a place to live?  How can we help those without medical care have it?  We might be reminded by the dozens of time in the Bible where it says variations of “do not mistreat the stranger” or “love the immigrant” because “you were strangers in Egypt”.  Every single human being on this continent came from somewhere else–whether 1 year ago or 50,000.  The gratitude that we should feel to those that came before us just might make us appreciate those trying to survive here now.  

 

Gratitude can change our lives–but appreciation can help us transform the lives of others!

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