People are struggling a lot with negative and toxic emotions right now. Maybe you are too.
A recent Gallup survey showed that levels of stress, worry, sadness, and anger have continued to tick up, reaching their highest recorded levels in the last two years. Due to a steady diet of uncertainty, the world has become a slightly sadder, more worried, and more stressed-out place than in previous decades.
This should come as no surprise considering the religious, political, and social divides that have widened so drastically over the past few years. When the world is chaotic and relationships fall apart, negative and toxic emotions fill the void.
What can we do when these toxic emotions are all we seem to feel?
The good news is that there is an antidote that both the Bible and modern science agree on – Gratitude.
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
According to the apostle Paul, finding ways to be thankful, no matter how difficult our circumstances, is God’s will for us. This is no surprise when you understand that God’s will is always for our good.
Gratitude is definitely good for us. But don’t just take the Bible’s word for it.
Recent scientific studies have shown that expressing gratitude has massive benefits to happiness. People who practiced habitual gratitude had significantly better levels of mental health and found that it unshackled them from toxic emotions.
Julian Breines writes: Over the past two decades, much of the research on happiness can be boiled down to one main prescription: give thanks. Across hundreds of studies, practicing gratitude has been found to increase positive emotions, reduce the risk of depression, heighten relationship satisfaction, and increase resilience in the face of stressful life events, among other benefits.
Overall, Gratitude has been shown to help people feel more positive emotions, enjoy good experiences, deal with adversity, and build/maintain strong relationships. It even has positive effects on physical health – people who practice gratitude actually had to visit the doctor less often for routine illness.
I realize for some it can be difficult to be grateful because sometimes things are just bad. That’s okay. The benefits of gratitude are not based on how big the good things in our lives are. Finding even the smallest of things to be thankful for still has a huge impact on battling the power of toxic emotions.
Here are three things you can do every day to practice habitual gratitude and unshackle yourself from toxic emotions:
1. Thank God for three moments you enjoyed recently.
These situations or events can be small or large. Maybe someone said your hair looked good. Or the police didn’t stop you when you passed them going over the speed limit. Maybe you just shared a laugh with someone special to you.
Our lives are made up of little moments, some bad some good. Let the good ones define your life by bringing them to mind and thanking God for them.
2. Thank God for three people you are grateful for.
We all have people who influence our lives in positive ways, from friends and family to strangers we run into. People who make our lives better in ways both big and small.
Instead of focusing on the people who left you, thank God for those who stayed.
Instead of focusing on the people who hurt you, thank God for those who lifted you up.
Instead of focusing on the people who you think are destroying your world, your church, or your culture, thank God for those who make it better.
There are so many people whose lives intersect yours for the good: a family member, a co-worker, a musician whose songs you love, or the barista who makes your coffee every day. These are all people to be grateful for.
3. Thank God for three things he’s blessed you with
It could be your car, your house, or a pair of shoes you love. Just this week, I’ve thanked God for my mattress, my old hot tub, and my dog. There’s no right or wrong thing to be grateful for. The power is in expressing gratitude to God for what you have.
As you practice habitual gratitude every day, my prayer is that you find yourself released from the prison of negative thinking. That toxic emotions like anger, anxiety, resentment, and envy shrivel up and die as they are replaced by the warm light of gratitude.
My prayer is that you not only see benefits to your happiness and mental health but that you are changed as you begin to see the presence of God tangibly moving in your life and recognize all the things he has done for you.
For more on gratitude check out this Compass message: