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Could daily writing down three things to be thankful for save your life?


Photo: Nick Saltmarsh/Foter/CC BY

Thankfulness is a state of mind, not circumstances. Photo: Nick Saltmarsh/Foter/CC BY

[by Dean Smith] According to researchers at the University of California having a thankful heart can save your life. The group led by Professor Paul Mills studied the effects of thankfulness on 186 people who experienced a Grade B heart condition. People in this stage have some type of heart damage, perhaps even experienced a heart attack, and have since recovered.

They need to make changes in lifestyle so they can avoid moving to Stage C where the chance of dying increases by 500%.

First, the researchers ran a series of psychological tests to assess their study group. These results were then compared to the patient’s scores in other areas such as fatigue, depression, quality of sleep and “inflammatory markers” (inflammation increases heart risk).

Speaking on behalf of the research team, Professor Paul Mills said:

“We found that more gratitude in these patients was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and lower rates of inflammatory bio-markers related to cardiac health.”

The research team then did one further test. For eight weeks, they asked some participants to daily list three things they could be thankful for.

Mills said those who did this exercise showed marked improvement in two critical areas — several different types of inflammatory bio-markers and increased “heart rate variability” — an indicator of “reduced cardiac risk.”

One of the major themes of the Bible is thankfulness and it even talks about a thankful heart (Psalms 138:1).

In the Old Testament, God included a Thanksgiving Offering as part of the sacrificial system (Leviticus 7:12-15). Though mentioned several times, it was different in one regard — it was a voluntary sacrifice.

It was not required. A person had to want to do it.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul wrote:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

We are to give thanks in all circumstances, no exceptions. This means we are not only to be thankful when good things happen, but also during difficult times.

I like the idea these researchers came up with — creating a daily journal of thanksgiving. In the midst of trials, it is easy to lose sight of all you have to be thankful for.

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