Gratitude and Happiness

Life Notes—November 28, 2013 

  “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:14-15

Grandma Hildenbrand was a grateful person. She appreciated the good in everyone. I do not recall gossip, pessimism, or foul language ever crossing her lips. I actually felt guilty, because the person she saw in me was far superior to the person I believed myself to be. She unfailingly praised and encouraged me. She was grateful to God for me, her first grandchild. Being positive and grateful was a way of life for my grandmother.

Recently, I watched a TED Talk ( by Shawn Achor titled, “The Happiness Advantage.” He is a proponent of Positive Psychology, which suggests how we view our world largely shapes our experience of reality. A focus of the talk was to encourage listeners to untie happiness from success. Our definitions of success are constantly changing and seldom reached. Therefore, if we believe we must be “successful” to be happy, we will never be happy. Even when we reach a long worked-for goal, our definition for success will likely shift before we reach the goal. The speaker had a formula for creating positive change in our lives. The first step was to identify three new things to be grateful for, every day, for twenty-one consecutive days. While success and happiness may not be related, gratitude and happiness certainly are.

Thanksgiving Day is a day of gratitude. It occurs in the late fall to recognize the blessings of the year. While it has become an exercise in over-indulgence, the foundation of the day is thankfulness. Most of us gather with family and friends, share a meal or two, and enjoy fellowship with each other. Life is good. In spite of the many tragedies and challenges sprinkled throughout her life, grandma was thankful. We should be, too.

Being intentionally thankful is a wise choice to make. A grateful heart is not only pleasing and helpful for others, expressing appreciation is a biblical charge, as in the passage from Colossians above. Perhaps most importantly, there is a selfish reason to be grateful—it is good for us! When we observe our life through a lens of gratitude, we find reason for hope and optimism. We become happier people. Until we begin identifying the many reasons we have for thankfulness, we cannot understand how truly blessed we are. I pray you find much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Come home to church this Sunday. Thankfulness, not success, is the key to happiness.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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