How Gratitude Effects Your Health

Sep 10, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Christopher Lewis, Helping Hands, Ministry Musings

by Rev. Christopher Lewis,
Nothing is Impossible Ministries

nothing is impossible

Studies have shown that our prevailing emotions have the power to have a direct effect upon the physical condition of our heart. One of the ways this happens is through what doctors call our “heart rate variability.” Emotions such as appreciation, joy, and love create a spectrum on the heart rate variability EKG tracing. These attitudes or emotions help a person to enter into a healthy state called “entrainment” in which our nervous systems are fully balanced. This allows our body to have the right balance of stimulation and relaxation and contributes to better health.

Conversely, toxic emotions such as frustration, anger, anxiety, bitterness and resentment create an incoherant spectrum on the heart rate variability. The lack of balance created in our system due to these emotions can actually lead to high stress reactions in the body and if kept at that level for long periods of time can lead to serious illnesses.

So here’s the conclusion from a medical standpoint: gratitude keeps your heart right.

Emotions such as love and joy may not be things we can create on demand, but gratitude is something we can foster purposefully. It may not be easy at first, but if we will take the time to stop and think about all the positive things in life that we can be grateful for and begin to express our thanks for them an amazing thing will happen: our heart rate will change, our stress reactions will diminish, and our health will benefit.

It’s interesting to me that many people claim that the Bible and science contradict each other when, in reality, the opposite is true. When looked at objectively, we find that the Bible and science are both exploring the same world and often come to the same conclusions from different perspectives. And this is another case in point: the Bible agrees that gratitude keeps the heart right.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 reads almost like a prescription: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We are not told to give thanks FOR everything that happens to us because obviously bad things happen sometimes that we don’t need to be happy about. However, it does tell us that IN every circumstance we are to give thanks. If we will learn to find the positive things in life to be thankful for in the midst of our trials, our whole perspective will change and we will begin to experience better health both physically and spiritually. (NIV)

The story is told of a pastor’s wife from Zimbabwe who visited the United States for the first time and went to a supermarket. She was overwhelmed by the vast variety of choices that Americans have in their stores. In one row, for example, she noticed that there were bread racks filled with dozens of different types of bread. She reflected that in her own country at that time people sometimes stood in line for three hours just to get one loaf of bread, and that one loaf was the maximum that was permitted for one family. She overheard a customer complaining because her particular brand of bread was sold out, and this pastor’s wife left the store sobbing.

Our lives are actually filled with many blessings that we simply take for granted. Do you have bread in your house? Do you have a roof over your head? If you have a roof over your head, clothes to wear, and food in your refrigerator, you are already richer than 75 per-cent of the world. If, on top of that, you have any money at all in the bank along with some in your wallet and some spare change, you are among the top eight per-cent of the world’s wealthy. Look around you and start to make a list of the things you can be grateful for! It’s good for the heart!

Christopher Lewis is an ongoing contributor to our Helping Hands section, and currently serving as a missionary with his wife Karen in Mexico where they are leading the planting of a new church in the town of Puerto Peñasco .


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