Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
How many times have you heard these verses quoted in regard to receiving that peace that passes understanding? It’s something we all long for, don’t we? And it can also feel like a complete mystery in how it represents itself in our lives.
Today, we’re exploring the concept of gratitude and how it plays a much bigger role than you might expect in our anxiety.
It’s easy to miss, but the words “with thanksgiving” provide a huge piece of the puzzle in pursuing less anxiety and more peace that passes understanding. This addition of thanksgiving is not simply a feel-good idea thrown in. No. It’s a key ingredient. And we’re finding scientifically that gratitude plays a role in lessening anxiety in our brains!
Did you know studies have shown practicing gratitude actually releases dopamine and serotonin in your brain? These neurotransmitters play a role in our anxiety, and by practicing gratitude daily, you can strengthen those pathways in your brain–making gratitude more of a default in you to replace anxiety!
Here are three ways you can put gratitude into practice daily…and scientifically help your brain default to a natural posture of gratitude like the Lord asks of us in Philippians 4.
- Speak your gratitude.
Have you ever received an encouraging word from someone? Not empty praise or general thank yous, but heartfelt words that express gratitude? What kind of impact did that make on you? There’s even better news…words are FREE! We can use our words to be intentional and generous with thanks. Be mindful of where you can verbally express your thankfulness around you. Make this a daily habit. We hold back too much when it comes to expressing thanks!
- Write your gratitude.
If you’re someone who is prone to forget God’s faithfulness, forget the blessings around you, and forget to keep track of prayers He has answered, you should practice writing down your gratitude. Make it a habit to note the things you are thankful for. Maybe you collect them in a journal or special box, and periodically remind yourself by reading the documentation of God’s faithfulness. This will be quick to spur on a steady heart of gratitude.
- Show your gratitude.
Our actions have a way of reinforcing our priorities. Find a way, daily, to show your gratitude in your actions. This might look like serving someone. It might look like kindness toward a family member, friend, or stranger. It could be a small gift, or a big gift. A smile, a wave, a conversation.
We must be willing to interrupt our schedules and our normal routines to make space for gratitude until gratitude becomes our normal routine. God knew what He was saying when He commanded thanksgiving to be present in our lives. See how it alleviates your anxiety when you put it into practice today!