By Vicki Heath
CHARLESTON, S.C. (BP) — Don’t you love it when science and medicine catch up with the Bible?
Health- and exercise-conscious people have been saying for years there is a connection between a healthy body and a healthy spirit. Now there is clinical proof alongside the Bible’s affirmation of people who give thanks and praise to God.
Psalm 103:1-5 says:
Praise the LORD, O my soul; / all my inmost being, praise his holy name. / Praise the LORD, O my soul, / and forget not all his benefits — / who forgives all your sins / and heals all your diseases, / who redeems your life from the pit / and crowns you with love and compassion, / who satisfies your desires with good things / so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (NIV).
I have been meditating on this psalm in recent weeks. What sparked my interest is the phrase from verse 2 “praise the Lord O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” and the connection to verse 5 “who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
A number of studies in recent years have shown how gratefulness indeed can enhance your health in a variety of ways.
The peer-reviewed Heart International journal, for example, published a study revealing that heart patients who had a positive and thankful outlook on life had much better results than those who did not. The study suggested that grateful people tend to make more money, sleep better, adhere to exercise commitments and are less likely to get infections.
Another fascinating study, in the peer-reviewed Journal of Happiness Studies, said this is also true for children and adolescents. The study surveyed 1,035 high-school students and found that teenagers who were most thankful had more friends and higher GPAs. Just the opposite was true of those showing materialistic values. They had lower grades, less satisfaction with their life and higher levels of envy and jealousy. Wow — a really good reason to get your kids to tell you at least one thing they are grateful for before they get out of the car.
For me personally, an attitude of gratitude is something I have to practice daily, not just during the week of Thanksgiving. We know we should take time and thank God for His many blessings and “forget not.” The catch is I don’t think gratefulness comes naturally. We have to train ourselves to be thankful. Here are a few disciplines encouraged by the First Place 4 Health wellness ministry of which I’m a part:
Write it down
Listing the things we are grateful for will help us remember to be thankful. We tend to forget His benefits and blessings. Just the very act of putting pen to paper does something to cement the act of thanksgiving in my heart. Keeping a journal may be what you need to boost your health and lower your blood pressure.
Use your words
My son Mark took a while to speak. He really did not have any need for words since his two older siblings spoke for him. We finally got to the point that his pointing and funny sign language was not enough. I started telling him to use his words. The words were in his mind, and he might have been thinking “thank you” but he needed to learn to say it out loud. And so do we. I stopped a stranger in the restaurant the other day wearing a “Vietnam Veteran” hat. My dad served two terms in Vietnam and did not receive much of a thank you when he returned. I took time and thanked this gentleman for his service to our country. I could tell it surprised and blessed him. It did not take much effort on my part. Don’t let grateful thoughts go unspoken for another minute. Call that friend. Write that letter or card you have been putting off. Words have the power to bring hope but have to use them.
We have more control over our thoughts than many of us realize. Even in the hardest times we can find a reason to be grateful. Being grateful is a decision you make, not necessarily something you might feel. I have a longtime pastor’s wife friend who is always smiling. Someone asked her once “why are you always smiling?” Her answer? Because I decided to.
The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (NIV). It certainly is not easy to give thanks in the mist of hard times, but the more we practice giving thanks in the good times, it will certainly come quicker in the hard times. Thank You Lord, thank You Lord, thank You … .
I want to have a happy healthy Thanksgiving. I want to focus on my friends and family and not so much on the food. I want to express genuine gratitude to our Lord. The health benefits are just a bonus! Proverbs 17:22 is true, “A cheerful heart is good medicine …” (NLT).
Vicki Heath is the national director of First Place 4 Health, a wellness program for balance in spirit, soul, mind and body based on a giving Christ first place. The FP4H movement began in 1981 as a ministry of Houston’s First Baptist Church and became a separate nonprofit ministry in 2010. FP4H counts groups in 12,000-plus churches, fitness centers, offices and homes, with more than 500,000 participants.