By Ansley Roan, Special to CNN
A mother in Missouri updates her Facebook status with something she’s grateful for each day. A doctor in Boston makes a gratitude list before bed. A priest in New York ends his day with thanks and reflection.
They have never met. Their lives are very different. But all of them are grateful.
Rhianna Mathias posts her gratitude status updates in part because she’s now a mother after a struggle with infertility. Dr. Aditi Nerurkar keeps a gratitude journal because it helps her de-stress. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, ends his days with an exercise called the examination of conscience, which begins with gratitude.
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Their choice to focus on gratitude and their different reasons for doing so suggest new popularity for an ancient sentiment.
Each year at Thanksgiving, many Americans share what they’re grateful for or bow their heads in prayer to give thanks. But there are growing signs that a renewed focus on gratitude has more staying power than the Thanksgiving leftovers.
Many of those who discern a gratitude trend say it's a response to two big developments. One is what some experts call “an explosion” in academic research on the practical benefits of gratitude. The other is economic hard times, which appear to have provoked a greater appreciation for the basic things in life, like family and food. And some say the trend speaks to something deeper, reflecting a crisis of purpose in modern life.
“There’s a surge in people who are facing some kind of major challenge, like losing their job," she said. "These are catalysts for self-reflection. People remind themselves of what really matters.”
The October unemployment rate was 9 percent and even many of those who have jobs have seen salaries stagnate or shrink. Median household income fell last year, down 1.4 percent from 2007.
The slump may be provoking many Americans to rethink priorities, says Carson Mencken, a Baylor University sociology professor and director of The Baylor Religion Survey.
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From The Urantia Book:
131:2.7 It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to the Most High; to show forth loving-kindness in the morning and the divine faithfulness every night. God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness. Yes, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for God is with me. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.