Pastoral Ponderings

December 2023

Last month I wrote about gratitude and its role in our lives on the surface and our conscious awareness. I hope that you took the opportunity to discover how consciously grateful you are or are not by participating in a daily exercise of gratefulness for specific experiences and actions. This month I will focus on the scientific benefits of gratefulness or gratitude. Obviously, this will be a generalized summary of benefits due to the vast library of research from multiple disciplines.

The information below is quoted directly or adapted from in order to simplify the presentation of information.

Physical Health Benefits
1. Gratitude helps improve sleep according to researchers from the University of Manchester in England. The researchers discovered that gratitude drives negatives thoughts away. (Wood et al., 2009, p. 43-48).
2. Gratitude helps prevent overeating. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., cites that practicing gratitude reinforces an individual’s willpower to resist excessive eating.
3. Gratitude helps strengthen the immune system thus decreasing the risk of contracting diseases (Sood, 2009; Emmons, 2010).
4. Gratitude improves pain tolerance. According to Bruce F. Singer, the practice of gratitude may not completely eliminate chronic pain, but it can be an effective pain management tool. (The Sports & Spinal Group, 2020)
5. Gratitude helps keep glucose levels under control. According to a study, grateful individuals have been reported to have their Hemoglobin A1c levels decrease by 9-13%. (UC Davis Health, 2015)
6. Gratitude helps patients with heart illness. According to a study, the practice of gratitude contributes to reducing the biomarkers of inflammation by 7% among individuals diagnosed with congestive heart failure (UC Davis Health, 2015).

Mental, Psychological, and Spiritual Health Benefits
1. Gratitude boosts self-confidence. (Chen and Wu, 2014, pp. 349-362).
2. Gratitude makes you more optimistic. (Peters et al., 2013, pp. 93-100).
3. Gratitude makes us less materialistic. The relentless pursuit of material things offers nothing more than instant but short-term gratification, which leads to the craving for more. (Polak and McCullough, 2006).
4. Gratitude makes you more forgiving. (Rey & Extremera, 2014, pp. 199-204). The element of gratitude has key contributions to interpersonal motivations to forgive along with optimism, emotional intelligence abilities, and the Big 5 personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism).
5. Gratitude helps the battle against depression. While gratitude cannot cure depression, incorporating the practice of gratitude brings forth positive experiences and reduces stress-inducing hormones while increasing “feel-good” ones.

Emotional Benefits
1.Practicing and showing gratitude improves your mood.
2. Gratitude helps manage grief. Grieving with gratitude helps us get through times of sorrow. While grieving is a painful process we have to experience over something or someone we have lost, gratitude also helps us appreciate the things left to us or those that we still have.
3. Gratitude makes us see our memories in a positive light. (Watkins et al., 2008).
4. Gratitude contributes to happiness. Several studies have confirmed that exhibiting the attitude of gratitude is associated with happiness triggered by having a stronger sense of appreciation for rewards, kindness received, and other positive aspects of life. (Emmons and McCullough, 2003; Seligman et al., 2005).

Social Benefits
1. Gratitude helps strengthen marriage/partner relationships. The positive emotions brought by gratitude play a unique role in establishing a high-quality relationship between couples. (Algoe et al., 2013, pp. 605-609).
2. Gratitude helps improve relationships with friends. Showing your appreciation to your friends reinforces clearer and more comfortable communication which play significant roles in resolving possible issues and misunderstanding (Lambert & Fincham, 2011, pp. 50-60).
3. Gratitude strengthens family support. A family that practices gratitude religiously is more likely to have improved well-being.
4. Gratitude fosters a healthy social circle. People who practice gratitude and express it on a regular basis are more likely to attract people with the same mindset. (Wood et al., 2010).

May gratitude grow in your life so that you have the abundant life God desires for you.

Blessings to you for a wonderful and meaningful Advent and Christmas Season – Rev. Gloria