The Scientific Connection Between Gratitude and Happiness

Studies have shown that gratitude is a powerful force for creating positive changes in individuals, families, and organizations. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a research professor of psychology, “The expression of gratitude is a kind of metastrategy for achieving happiness.” Here are some of the research findings, published in books such as The Happiness Advantage, Flourish, and Optimal Functioning.

  • Grateful people have more energy, happiness, and friends and also enjoy better sleep and overall health.
  • Writing down what made people happy, lowered stress levels and increased a sense of calm.
  • Counting acts of kindness done and received increases levels of positivity.
  • A study of resilience and emotions following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States found that gratitude helps people cope with painful and stressful life events.
  • Grateful people are more helpful people because they remember how thankful they feel when helped.
  • Gratitude reduces negative comparisons with others.
  • When we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them.
  • Gratitude reduces negative emotions like anger, envy, greed, and anxiety.

Thanksgiving is much more than saying “Thank you” for a present or benefit we’ve received. The world’s most prominent researcher and writer about gratitude, Robert Emmons, said it is “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.”

We can boost gratitude in our lives by intensifying the feeling of it for each positive event, by increasing the frequency of it throughout the day, by expanding the number of things we’re grateful for, and by expressing gratitude to more people. But the most effective multiplier of gratitude, said Emmons, is humility: “At the cornerstone of gratitude is the notion of undeserved merit. The grateful person recognizes that he or she did nothing to deserve the gift or benefit; it was freely bestowed.”

Again, don’t we Christians start with such an advantage here, given that our whole faith is based on grace, the sense of a completely undeserved salvation that has been freely given us by a gracious God?

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5 Negative Influences on Pastors Who Leave Pastoring
“According to the research, if you want to feel isolated, misled, ill prepared, overwhelmed, and financially unstable—sign up to pastor. While these are not the only reasons these pastors left the pastorate, they surely impacted the decision to step away from their roles. What should be done? Well these five points have simple (not easy, not easy at all) responses:”

Towards a Christian Perspective on Mental Illness
“Three resources related to the subject of mental health and illness. A podcast of the plenary presentation “Towards a Christian Perspective on Mental Illness” An article that served as the outline for this presentation but contains additional information. A podcast of the panel discussion where this presentations was critiqued and expanded.”

The Problem of Suicide: How is the Church Caring for those Impacted?
“I don’t know about you, but I would much rather counsel someone in pain instead of waiting to counsel their family members after a life has been lost. To accomplish this, church leaders need to offer more small groups and counseling opportunities for those struggling with mental health and suicidal thoughts. Serving these members of our community—beloved children of God—and entering into their stories really is an enormous privilege.”

Instilling Gratitude in Your Family – Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation
“Discontent and entitlement are strong pressures, but there are still ways to cultivate gratitude in your home. The more I teach my children to love God, enjoy each other, and to serve others, the more they come to realize that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Here are some simple, but practical, ways to facilitate this in your family.”

Fair-Minded Criticism Is an Acquired Taste that Can Become One of Life’s Best Pleasures
“If I only listen to my allies, or to yes-men, clones, devotees, and fellow factionaries, then I might as well inject narcotics into my veins. The people of God are a large work in progress. To engage and to interact with critics is to further the process—in both of our lives. We ought to offer to others the kind of criticism that is such a pleasure to receive.”

Kindle Books

The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives by Ravi Zacharias $1.99.

Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God by Bruce A. Ware

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The Heart of John Owen’s Hedonism
John Piper makes the case for John Owen being a Christian Hedonist.

Don’t Be Dumb with Your Smartphone
Meet the iPhone’s nemesis, Tony Reinke.

Eight Dangers of Pursuing Applause
“As I read Brown’s counsel I not only try to apply it to my life as a pastor but also as a pastor who uses social media. A lust for platform—whether it’s being able to brag about baptism numbers or Twitter followers—will always take you further than you wanted to go. You might even succeed in gaining that platform but these vices will follow you to the top. It’s no wonder we see so many men climb to the top and then experience a mighty fall; these vices followed them.”

4 Reasons Every Pastor Should Exercise
“Unfortunately, full-time pastoring can be physically taxing. Long hours sitting at a desk and attendance at prayer breakfasts tends to work against us. From the deep recesses of our studies we cry, “I’m called to the ministry of the Word and to prayer! Both are sedentary. Being out of shape is just an occupational hazard.”"

The Double Groan of the Gospel
Not all groaning is bad.

Kindle Books

George Muller of Bristol by Arthur T. Pierson $3.14.

Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray $2.09.

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Free Online Courses from TGC
This new web resource is really well designed:

One of the core ways The Gospel Coalition serves the church is by providing biblically faithful web-based content for personal and group use. So, today, we are excited to introduce you to a brand-new and totally free online learning platform.

10 Reasons Pastors Should Study the Bible in Its Original Languages
“Every pastor who can should study the Bible in its original languages. That does not mean every pastor should become a language expert or feel guilty about one more thing in an already punishing schedule. What I mean is that, within the time and opportunities available, pastors should study the text of the Bible in its original languages. Here’s why:”

More than inspirational
“Joni Eareckson Tada’s half-century as a quadriplegic and a disabilities advocate is far more than a story of human endurance. It’s a Christ-exalting example of a courageous truth Christians don’t always embrace: ‘When I am weak, then I am strong’”

The Whole Christ: A New Teaching Series from Sinclair Ferguson
“In this new video teaching series, The Whole Christ, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson expands on his book and illustrates the biblical relationship between God’s grace and our work. Dr. Ferguson makes it clear that the solution to both legalism and lawlessness is the same—a right understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Hollywood and the Human Heart
“We ought to welcome an exposure of sexual sin in a culture that has celebrated, embraced and fought for every other conceivable form of sexual sin. However, only highlighting one or two specific forms of sexual depravity will have the inevitable and undesired result of fueling self-righteousness among those outraged by it. When the media singles out one particular sexual sin, while approving almost all other forms, one who hasn’t fallen into a socially unacceptable form of sexual sin begins to go on a self-righteous rampage about the sin of others while refusing to acknowledge his or her own depravity. ”

Running from “the Black Dog”
Scott Slayton proposes three strategies will help you fight for joy when depression rears its ugly head. “God works through his people, his world, and his word. We would do well to utilize them in our war against the black dog.”

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Rediscovering the Holy Spirit: God’s Perfecting Presence in Creation, Redemption, and Everyday Life by Michael Horton $4.99.

How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth by Christopher J. H. Wright $4.99.

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It’s been a bit quiet on the blog front the past few days because Shona and I have been speaking at a conference at Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, where Tom Ascol and Jared Longshore are the pastors. We tagged on three days vacation with a few of our kids at the end of it. Normal service will be resumed in a couple of days.

Many thanks to Tom, Jared, and the congregation for their warm fellowship and generous hospitality over the past weekend. It was all the more memorable for us because it was the first conference Shona had spoken at, and she did so in connection with her book, Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands.

Hannah Asco, Donna Ascol, Tom Ascol, David Murray, Shona Murray, Amy Murray, Joni Murray, Scot Murray

Hannah Asco, Donna Ascol, Tom Ascol, David Murray, Shona Murray, Amy Murray, Joni Murray, Scot Murray

Here are some of the articles I’ve been reading the past few days.

Do You Sleep Less Than Jesus?
“The Word became flesh and slept among us. God himself in full humanity — body, heart, mind, and will — closed his eyes and went to sleep. And not once or twice, but every day.”

How the Church Helps Trauma Survivors
The second article in Todd Hardin’s series on PTSD. I love Todd’s holistic approach to biblical counseling.

When Combat Trauma Tests a Marriage
“Treatment of PTSD requires the expertise of mental health professionals. However, the need for a professional counselor never negates the need for a loving church family. The church is uniquely positioned to wrap around both veterans and their families: loving them, supporting them, and praying for them. A strong support system—like what a church family can offer—is crucial for healing.

Frustrated with a Friend
What do you do when a scholar you admire writes a disappointing chapter that undermines the Messianic Psalms?

How to Be Busy but in Balance
Written by one of the busiest men still alive:

“Perhaps the first step is to stop working, spend some time with God, and seek understanding as to what he is saying about your work. After all, he is our model; he is the one who calls us to work hard and to enjoy rest.

Facebook founding president sounds alarm
The founding President of Facebook takes us behind the curtain.

“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” “That means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you… more likes and comments.”

Kindle Books

Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion by Os Guinness $5.99.

The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief  by James Spiegel $2.51.

Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt $4.99.

Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson  $4.99.