As the days shorten and the nights grow dark, the light of the holiday season softens the chill and brightens the bleakness that can accompany winter. The bounty-laden tables and family togetherness of Thanksgiving focus our attention on a virtue that can brighten the darkest, coldest corners of our lives. “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life,” said writer Melody Beattie. “It turns what we have into enough, and more.”

The Benefits of Gratitude

In a devotional address given in October 2012, Ray L. Huntington shared science-tested benefits of being thankful. Grateful people, he said, “exercise more frequently, report fewer illnesses, and generally feel better about their lives.” (Let’s hope these health benefits make up for stuffing ourselves with turkey, potatoes, and pie.)

But the perks aren’t just with physical health. Huntington shared that grateful people were 25 percent happier than their ungrateful counterparts and felt “closer and more connected to people, had better relationships, were more likely to help others, felt less lonely, felt less depressed, slept better, and were more pleasant to be around.” If you have to come down with a chronic illness, cross your fingers that it’s a severe case of chronic gratefulness.

Happiness is not having what you like, but liking what you have. -Sharon G. Samuelson (designed quote)

Gratitude for Fleas

“Happiness is not having what you like but liking what you have,” said Sharon G. Samuelson in a September 2010 devotional. Samuelson shared the story of sisters Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, who—while imprisoned for harboring Jewish refugees during World War II—found ways to be grateful for all things. In their flea-infested cell, the sisters found peace by reading from the Bible every day. Their greatest fear was that their Bible would be taken by the guards.

One night, with their Bible hidden away, Betsie suggested that they give thanks to God for their blessings—even the fleas. Corrie half-heartedly bowed her head, wondering what could be good about fleas. As the weeks passed, the blessing of the fleas became apparent: their cell was so infested that the prison guards didn’t dare step inside. Their precious Bible, and its daily source of inspiration, remained safe.

Armed with Thanksgiving

Gratitude can be a defense against dark thoughts and negative attitudes, no matter what our circumstances may be. Like Corrie and Betsie, as we approach individual struggles, we can see them in the light of gratitude and find positivity, happiness, and endurance through trials. Gratitude can help us find joy: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks” (1 Thess. 15:16–18).