For almost the entire year of 2020, all I heard and saw was sadness, fighting, name calling, woes, negativity, pride, pain, loss of hope, corruption, deceit, scandal, yelling, fighting, and a bleak outlook on the future.
Maybe that was my fault. Maybe I just wasn’t seeing the good in life. But I can’t sugar coat it. That’s what 2020 has felt like to me so far. A big year of 🤳🏻 + 💩.
But then on November 20th, a 96 year old physician named Russell M. Nelson, got on social media and asked everyone to flood the earth with gratitude.
He said he was a man of science and also a man of faith. WAIT WHAT? Men of science and men of faith can’t usually get along, can they? They should. And he is both.
He’s perhaps one of the best medical and scientific minds on the earth today, and yet, also the leader of one of the largest Christian denominations in the world.
His message came just in time. Many people were giving up on others, giving up on themselves, and had lost faith in humanity. Sadness, depression, and unhappiness were soaring throughout the United States and the world.
In just a few short minutes, his message changed all that. If my social media feed is any indication of the morale of my friends and the people in my circles, it was in pretty bad shape on almost every day up to November 19. But on November 20th, it’s as if I was transported to a different world, in a year other than 2020.
What I’ve seen on social media in the last week has been nothing short of a miracle. Everywhere I turned, I was lifted by one person or another. Instead of opening my feed, and just shutting it down because of despair, I was lifted by the optimism and gratitude of those I am connected with on social media.
I watched as if almost everyone I knew reached down deep to #givethanks for what was most important to them. The things that that brought true joy. Some things were simple. Some things were deep. Everything was uplifting.
But why did this 96 year spiritual leader feel the need to cite the “science” behind gratitude?
Because God is the great scientist, and He has scientifically engineered our bodies and minds to respond positively to a life of gratitude.
Scientifically, the negative emotion of ingratitude over time acts as a toxic substance that causes inflammation and can lead to increased risk of heart disease and other ailments. Dr. Russell M. Nelson, the heart surgeon, a man who has seen his share of inflammation, prescribed a week-long cycle of the strongest medicine he knew of for the physical and spiritual heart.
To simply #givethanks
UCLA neuroscientist Alex Korb said it’s impossible to focus on positive and negative feelings at the same time. Gratitude releases dopamine (the reward chemical), and that makes us want to feel that way on a regular basis. The goal was that a 7 day prescription of gratitude is enough to make it a habit for each of us.
Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, from the Division of Biologic Psychology at Duke University Medical Center said “If gratitude were a drug, it would be the world’s best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.”
I felt as if I was watching my world of friends “heal” through gratitude this week. As if the world came back to its senses and gratitude overcame all woes.
People gave thanks for trials, for the ups and downs.
A connection on LinkedIn gave thanks for the time he was able to spend with his sister who passed away this year instead of anger for the time he’d lose in the future with her.
Another friend of mine gave thanks for his cancer. WHAT? WHY? If you knew this man, you would know that his positive outlook and grateful heart through all of his trials has brought him through more than most people could endure in 2 lifetimes.
Another friend, unashamed, gave thanks for modern medicine that has helped her with her struggle with anxiety.
Other people were grateful for loved ones, for mothers, fathers, spouses, and children. Some were grateful for ancestors, for pioneers, and for another day to live.
But in every case, the gratitude of my friends became a ray of hope and sunshine every time I checked in on social media.
Where on earth do people get on giving thanks for cancer or finding the good in the death of a beloved sister? Especially in these hard times?
These intelligent souls have learned one of the greatest lessons in life. That gratitude cures a multitude of ills. Fighting misfortune with negativity and despair only leads to more despair. The only way up and out and forward and onward is through the simple door of gratitude. It’s almost as simple and yet evasive as the brazen serpent lifted up on a pole in the wilderness for the children of Israel. Look and live. Have gratitude and live. Physically and spiritually.
Have a life that is full of love in the face of the storm around you. Don’t live in fear. Live grateful and fear will shrink in your presence.
I was reluctant to get on social media in March of 2014. Since then I’ve experienced so many positive and negative emotions as a result of writing a blog and sharing it on social media. But I’ve never seen anything like what happened on November 20th when a man of science and a man of faith asked us to #givethanks.
May this prescription of gratitude turn into a healthy habit that endures beyond this week…