Scientific Research Demonstrates How Gratitude Cultivates Happiness

Sunflower

Happy Thanksgiving! This is the time of year that we pause from our busy lives and think about what we are thankful for. Research has shown that gratitude cultivates happiness. Gratitude helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack.

Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami have conducted extensive and fascinating research on gratitude.

In one study, they divided the research participants into three groups. One group wrote about what they were grateful for daily. The second group wrote about what irritated them daily and the third group wrote about daily events with no emphasis on them being positive or negative. Over time, it showed that those who exercised gratitude felt better about their lives, they exercised more and had fewer doctor’s appointments than the other two groups.

I found this study interesting because clearly all people in each group experienced things they are grateful for and things that irritate them. We all have good and bad in our lives every day. This study shows that it doesn’t really matter how much good or bad happens in your life, but rather what you focus on and express that manifests the degree of happiness in life.

Another leading researcher, Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, a psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, compared with a control group who wrote about general experiences from childhood, like a diary or journal. The group of participants which showed the greatest impact when looking at happiness scores, wrote and personally delivered a letter of gratitude to someone in their life who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness. Upon delivering the letter, participants exhibited a significant increase in happiness scores and these benefits typically lasted for over a month!

Other studies have shown that gratitude can improve relationships. Couples who regularly express what they are grateful for to their partner, demonstrated an increase in happiness as a couple.

Cultivating what we are thankful for changes us. These thoughts have powerful effects on our lives. What we think about is so important and determines our level of happiness. It has been proven scientifically that having gratitude will exponentially increase our happiness. The bible is also consistent with this research and repeatedly tells us not to worry, to be thankful and to guard our thoughts.

“Whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I think a key in the previous verse is the peace “which transcends all understanding” In my kidnapping experience when having a near heaven experience, the reality of what I was experiencing was the polar opposite of what an onlooker might assume. This transcends all of our understanding, based on what we “know.” If you have a loved one who is terminally ill and suffering, this is only temporary, they are going “through the fire” and there is something beautiful on the other side!

“Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your path straight.” Proverbs 3: 5-6

It’s natural to focus on the negative when we are going through a difficult time, but in order to get through the fire with happiness, we have to do what might not feel natural. We have to guard our thoughts- as negative thoughts enter, have a positive statement ready to replace that negative thought. For example, if you are thinking that you aren’t good enough, as soon as you notice that thought, think the opposite of that. “I am enough.”

As research and the bible both consistently show us, we must find something to be grateful for. Based on the previous research, here are some tips for cultivating happiness in your life.

  1. Write a thank you note. Research showed this to be the most effective activity to achieve and sustain happiness.
  2. Thank someone mentally. If you don’t have the opportunity to write a note or tell the person, just thinking about them and why you’re thankful can create happiness.
  3. Start a gratitude journal and every day write down what you’re thankful for.
  4. Count blessings as you go through your day. Make mental notes of the many blessings in your life.
  5. Pray “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

*For encouraging thoughts, follow my Instagram and Facebook page which can be found on the sidebar of my blog!

I am humbled and deeply thankful for all of the people who follow my blog and support this project. I’m thankful that Through the Fire is being published and will be released in early 2018. I’m thankful for our Heavenly Father who can take even the darkest of stories and turn them into a story which heals and brings hope to others!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Emmons, RA, et al. “Counting Blessings Verses Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Feb2003): Vol.84, No. 2, pp 377-89

Lambert NM, et al. “Expressing Gratitude to a Partner Leads to More Relationship Maintenance Behavior.” Emotion (Feb 2011): Vol 11, No 1, pp 52-60

Seligman MEP, et al. “Empirical Validation of Interventions.” American Psychologist (July-Aug 2005): Vol. 60, No. 1, pp. 410-21.

 

 

Love is a Verb ~ Without Action, it’s Merely a Word

 

Butterfly Love.jpgHiking through the hills after being kidnapped, was probably the most difficult time in my life. Having severe injuries, a blood soaked dress, covered in bruises from beatings, and being emotionally and physically exhausted, each step took extreme effort. One thought that kept me going was that I knew that if I kept walking that I would soon run into caring people who would help me to make it back home. All I had to do was make it back to civilization. I was sure that the first person that saw me would pull over their car and help me. I just needed to find one person and I would be saved! This is what I thought; however I would soon discover that I was very wrong. I would soon experience a profound sense of disappointment as car after car passed me without stopping. By passers slowed their cars enough to get a good look at me with shock and then continued to drive on. Each time this happened, my heart sunk. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t stop and help me. As I came to a residential area, and passed people as we walked on the sidewalk, I felt that these weren’t “bad” people, yet everyone avoided me, looked away or sped off quickly. As disappointing as it was to experience how the kidnapper could be so cruel and thoughtless, the fact that others wouldn’t help me may have been even more disappointing. They looked at me as if I was “trouble”. Maybe they thought I was a runaway, homeless, or mixed up with the wrong type of people. Maybe they were afraid that if they stopped to help that they may be accused of hurting me or maybe they thought that the person who did this to me would hurt them if they got involved. Maybe they felt it was none of their business, not their responsibility; someone else will help me. Maybe they were just busy.  Maybe they never really thought about helping other people before. We will never understand why the people who passed me that day didn’t stop and help. There’s nothing we can do now to change the past. I hope by sharing my story that I can bring awareness so that we, as a society, will become brave and caring individuals and help people who desperately need our assistance.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta devoted her life to showing love to people who were dying in the streets. She picked them up, brought them to a home where they could die with love, joy and the peace of Christ. Mother Teresa spoke of loving with actions, rather than words. One time, she was inviting to a conference about ending world hunger. When she arrived to the conference, right in front of the door where hundreds of people passed to go into the conference to discuss how they would end hunger within 15 years, she found a dying man. Mother Teresa didn’t attend the conference that day, instead she brought the dying man home. He soon died – he died of hunger. Everyone in the conference talked about ending hunger, and the man that they passed on their way in died.

I wonder if one reason we don’t help others is because we judge. Did the people who passed the dying man judge him and is this why they didn’t help him? Did they feel their work in the conference was more important than the man? We are all precious to God. The man in the streets, those who are wealthy, those with disabilities, those who are healthy, all shades of skin color, you, me, and everyone – He loves all of us.

“A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Jesus spent his time loving and doing good deeds. If we are trying to live like Jesus then we need to put our love in action also. Just as our Heavenly Father sent Jesus, He sent us to love one another.

“We show love by thoughtfulness, by kindness, by sharing joy, by sharing a smile… through the little things.” Mother Teresa

Love is a verb and has to be put into action to have real meaning. We have all seen vicious arguments on social media where people are trying to convince others with their words to do good works. While many of the intentions of those arguing may have started with a good hearted intentions, talking alone isn’t enough. Instead of talking, we need to take action. We need to become comfortable being inconvenienced; to go out of our way to help others.

With all of the problems in the world, it can be difficult to know where to help. Mother Teresa has beautifully offered advice for us-

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility. I only look at the individual. I can love only one person at a time. I can only feed one person at a time. Just one, one, one. You get closer to Christ by coming closer to each other. As Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me.” So you begin….I begin. I pick up one person – maybe if I didn’t pick up that one person I wouldn’t have picked up 42,000. The whole work is only a drop in the ocean. But if I didn’t put the drop in, the ocean would be one drop less. Same thing for you, same thing in your family, same thing in your church where you go, just begin…. One, one, one.

At the end of our life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how may great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me I was homeless and you took me in.’

Hungry not only for bread – but hungry for love.

Naked not only for clothing – but naked of human dignity and respect.

Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks – but homeless because of rejection.

This is Christ in distressing disguise.” Mother Teresa

Let’s be people who love with our actions – on earth as it is in heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

When slipping into a “Near Heaven” experience, this is what I wanted to share with my loved ones…

As terrifying as the experience of being kidnapped was, it was also one of the most profound experiences of my life. I will share more about the miracles that I experienced firsthand and the many lessons that I learned later. For now, I will say that I’m deeply grateful that God was with me during this entire ordeal. When I was kidnapped, I had what we call a near death experience. I prefer the term “near heaven experience” because it’s much more fitting. As I was slipping into this beautiful place, I remember thinking that my family would be devastated when then they found out how I died. If they only knew that I was okay, I was truly okay. If I had died, I would have remained in this amazingly wonderful place that is filled with love and peace that can’t be compared to anything in this life. Since I didn’t die, I was able to come back home to my loved ones. Either way, there was something wonderful on the other side of the pain. (Through the Fire) I feared that my loved ones would replay my violent death in their minds over and over. They would imagine how I must have felt and what I looked like at the time of death. They would picture me in pain, sad and alone… and they would have been so wrong.  What I was actually experiencing was nothing like what you might imagine based on what my physical body looked like. Initially, I was terrified and in excruciating pain… but then, like a bolt of lightning, the pain vanished and was replaced with super charged loving comfort. There was no more fear, no more pain, and I wasn’t alone. I was experiencing an unimaginable degree of peace, love, and joy, even though my physically body was failing. I wasn’t suffering any more. I actually felt better than I ever have in my entire life.  If my loved ones had a sense of where I truly was, they wouldn’t be sad for me at all. They would be happy because it is THAT amazing. If you have lost a loved one tragically, I can tell you that the experience for them is not at all what you might imagine. There’s something beautiful on the other side of the pain and suffering! Once through the fire there is no pain.

I remember thinking that I wished I could tell my family what my death was really like from my perspective and to let them know that I was in a really good place. Since I have been given the opportunity to live a little longer, I hope to be the voice for those who have passed. I believe that people who have died tragically would also want their loved ones to know that they are in an amazing place filled with love and joy. There is no pain and sadness and they are not alone. They would want their loved ones to think of happy memories they shared together. They wouldn’t want the tragedy to be replayed over and over in the minds of their loved ones. They would want them to live every day to the fullest with love and purpose.

Yes, we are fully confident that we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8

I hope that as I share my story, that I can help people who may be stuck “in the fire” to find peace and happiness. Please follow and share. If you have any questions or comments that you would like to share with me, visit my contact page and leave me a message. I would love to hear from you. Thanks!

Katherine

Throughthefire.blog

When the Going get Tough, the Tough get Going…

When the going gets tough, the tough get going…
These are the words that my dad told to me whenever times were a little hard. I never really liked hearing those words and when I appeared to not like what he was saying, he would follow up with a smile and a wink and say, “ya gotta be tough, right kid?” Life had taught him what I hadn’t yet learned. If you don’t choose to press on, the alternative is worse. The minute you give up, the minute you stop trying, at that moment, you lose your dream. You lose a bit of purpose for your life. That decision becomes a fork in the road of your life. So, you’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to keep trying. There’s no shame in failing. Just keep trying. Don’t give up. It’s hard to keep going sometimes, but it’s better than the alternative.
At the end of my kidnapping experience, I was dropped off in the hills to die. I had been beaten so badly that when my brother saw me, he said he wouldn’t have recognized me. My throat was slashed and blood was soaked into my clothes all the way down to my waist. To say I was exhausted was an understatement. The last thing I felt like doing was hiking through the hills. I wanted to lay down and rest. I found a large rock that was at the perfect angle to lean back and rest my head comfortably so I decided to sit down. My plan was to take a little nap before hiking to find help. Just as I closed my eyes, my mind became very loud. “Wake up! Get up and walk! Wake up! Wake up!” I tried to silence my mind, but it was useless. Perhaps this is how God helps us in our trials. What appears to be a random thought, may actually be help from above. We really are never alone. Since I was unable to rest, I got up and started walking. “You gotta be tough, right kid.”
Growing up, I was never what anyone would have called a “tough” person, but sometimes, being tough is the only choice we have. The doctors told me that if I had fallen asleep, that I wouldn’t have woken up.
In everyday life, we have hard times – very hard times. Even so, we can’t stop trying. We must press on to get to the other side of the storm in our life; to get through the fire. “Tough” is not a quality that’s only available to body builder, or CEO, type A people. Being tough is available to everyone. We have a Heavenly Father who has promised to take our burdens, if we ask. Asking for help is not always easy to do. Sometimes we don’t want to surrender and ask for help, but help is available. That choice is up to us. Our thoughts can get in the way of asking for help so remember… your thoughts determine the amount of suffering that you will endure.
“but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“Ya gotta be tough, right kid?”