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'Counting Your Blessings' Leads to Better Health

According to author Richard Beck’s recent book, gratitude is a simple practice. You don't need to dance in a Holy Ghost conga line to do this. One of my favorite studies about gratitude is the "Count Your Blessings" study conducted by the psychologist Bob Emmons. I remember singing the old gospel hymn "Count Your Blessings'' as a child. The admonition of the song seemed so simplistic and trite:

When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God has done!

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

Turns out those lyrics are cutting-edge science. In his "Count Your Blessings" study Emmons had participants do the simplest thing: At the end of each day take a moment to count your blessings by writing them down in a journal. And you know what happened? At the end of the study the participants who engaged in this simple practice of thanksgiving where healthier—emotionally and physically—than the control group. Simply counting your blessings made people healthier and happier. That's the cheapest therapy you're ever going to find.

Prayer, as a practice, is a constant posture of thankfulness. Prayer is the mindful discipline to act out of an experience of gift rather than scarcity. So count your blessings. Name them, one by one.

Source: Richard Beck, “Reviving Old Scratch” (Fortress Press, 2016), Pages 158-159

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