Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Gratitude: A Natural Antidepressant

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Daily Gratitude Year 5-Day 4: Today, I am grateful that gratitude is a natural anti-depressant.

In the short days of winter, when some days I practically miss the sunshine... I am reminded that gratitude has some very real benefits that are supported by science. 

Over the course of time, man has often been wrong and called it science. Just because a thought is popular, does not make it correct. 

Sam Smidt, a young Wheaton geology professor, grew up in our church. He did his undergraduate degree at Olivet, under the guiding, faith-filled, challenging, encouraging and always kind hand of Dr. Max Reams. (I took Dr. Reams class in the 80's mostly to hear his pre-teaching devotionals.) Sam said the most amazing thing in an ONU alumni interview: 

He insists, “there are no contradictions between science and God; there are only contradictions between our understanding of God and our understanding of science.”  

I wanted to shout "amen" when I read this. God loves order. In fact, bringing chaos to order delights his creative nature.(See Genesis 1&2) But we must remember, God is not limited by the science HE created. He can... and does... choose to act outside of his design. 

Why? Because he can. We call them miracles or God interventions. I've witnessed a miracle recently that I still have not been able to put into words to tell the story. Science was stumped. We know God moved. 

Most of the time, he cares for us and protects us using the magnificently designed scientific order he created. When God gives a specific direction, an instruction or a commandment in his word... it is not to make us feel restricted. It is to free us to live better... with better health... and with a contentment that the world cannot provide. 

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" -Micah 6:8

"Oh man, what is good" is to do the right thing, love each other and walk humbly with Him. Isn't gratitude part of the "walk humbly with your God"?

Choosing gratitude over discontentment and complaining can be life changing. This is from a Huffington Post article on the Neuroscience of Gratitude:

"When we take time for gratitude, certain neural circuits are activated. Production of dopamine and serotonin increases, and these neurotransmitters then travel neural pathways to the “bliss” center of the brain — similar to the mechanisms of many antidepressants. Practicing gratitude, therefore, can be a way to naturally create the same effects of medications and create feelings of contentment." - Emily Fletcher, Huffington Post contributor 

The side effects are all positive. No drug can make that claim. Gratitude has only positive benefits. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28

I don't enjoy "all things". Some things stink. Some things are hard. We can trust that the tough stuff has purpose. Athletes know this and call it training. He is building us up and preparing us for his purpose. 

"But always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.  Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." -1 Thessalonians 5:15b-18
The complain train is the easiest to jump on and ride, but it is never a pleasant experience. 

"If we’re constantly looking at the negative and searching for problems, the neural pathways for negative thinking become stronger." - Emily Fletcher, Huffington Post contributor 

What if each time we let a complaint slip out ... we balanced it with three points of gratitude? 

A prayer of gratitude and a thankful heart are a pleasing and acceptable offering to our Lord. 

Today, I am grateful that gratitude is a natural anti-depressant.

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