© Dr. Chris Schriner 2006
Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation
November 26, 2006

When we come to Mission Peak and we see someone we know, they may greet us by asking, "How are you?" They don't mean, "How are you all the time." They mean, "How are you today?" We change from day to day and even from minute to minute. Our friends want to know "how it's going" with us now. When someone asks how you are, you may be feeling good, or stressed, or worried, or tired, or full of energy. How often are you feeling thankful?

Being thankful is one of the common themes of the holiday season - obviously at Thanksgiving but also at Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, solstice, and New Year's. We need these special celebrations to remind us to feel grateful, because it's easy to forget what's good and focus on worries and frustrations.

So here's a question for us all, including the children. When people ask, "How are you this morning?" or "Did you have a good day at school" or at work, how often do you notice that you are feeling thankful?

Once or twice a year we may stop to count our blessings, and even when we're going though a difficult time we still have blessings to count. But how would our lives change if we felt blessed and fortunate every hour? Think about that for yourself. How would your life change if you felt thankful a whole lot of the time?

This fall I did a sermon series on mind-shifting, shifting how we think and feel as if we were shifting gears in a car. Some of us are driving around in reverse and we might want to go forward instead. When I shift into the gratitude gear, I feel better. I feel more "up" and more energetic, like I'm ready to move ahead.

Years ago we talked about expressing thanks to each other here at Mission Peak, when people do things we appreciate. I think we're better these days at showing each other gratitude. So here's something we could add on to that. When you thank someone, stop for a second and notice what it's like to appreciate them. How does it feel to put yourself in the gratitude zone? If you thank someone and you also stop for a moment to savor that feeling of gratitude, then you have made two people feel good at the same time. Feeling grateful is like lighting a big, bright candle in our hearts.

We all could learn to be appreciative more often. In fact, it's OK to be grateful for no particular reason at all, just to be thankful because we like the way it feels inside. Our moods and emotions don't have to be reasonable or make sense. We can feel lucky and fortunate just because we enjoy having that attitude. Life doesn't force us to feel lucky or unlucky. Think about a situation one way, and you'll want to complain. Think about it another way and you'll want to smile.

If you need any more reason to feel thankful, people with positive attitudes tend to be healthier. Studies by professor Robert Emmons of UC Davis show that Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, (and) regular physical examinations. And according to Blair Justice, professor-emeritus of psychology at a School of Public Health at Houston, "rediscovering a sense of abundance by thinking about those people and things we love lowers the risks of [heart attacks]. Dr. Justice himself practices a regular ritual of appreciation. At the end of every day he asks himself three questions.

What has surprised me?
What has touched me?
What has inspired me?

We all get into habits of feeling a certain way. But the familiar moods we fall into so easily are only patterns in our minds, patterns that can be changed. No matter how young we are or how old we are, we can learn to be grateful more often for the good things we enjoy. So Happy Thanksgiving. And thank you, for listening.

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