Being thankful doesn't always come easy when you are an expat. It is easy to see only the negative side of living abroad, learning to be thankful can improve your over all mental health and change your experience from negative to positive.

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Sometimes we think that we really can?t change much about our lives. They are the way they are and we just have to ?live with it?. As expats we can be prone to that way of thinking and the more negative we are regarding our circumstances the more we seem to spiral downwards into gloom.

Romans 1:21  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Today I stumbled across a book simply entitled ?Thanks? by Robert Emmons. It is no surprise to me that the physiologists have figured out what the Bible has said for centuries. Thankfulness is important.

  • People who regularly practice grateful thinking can increase their ?set-point? for happiness by as much as 25 percent.
  • Such increases can be sustained over a period of months ? challenging the previously held notion that our set-points for happiness are frozen at birth.
  • Keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks can result in better sleep and more energy.

Emmons goes on to explain that giving thanks is a process. The French expression ?je suis reconnaissant? can be interpreted like this:

  1. ?I recognise? (intellectually)
  2. ?I acknowledge? (willingly)
  3. ?I appreciate? (emotionally)

Only when all three come together is gratitude complete. Thankfulness is not a superficial feeling, it isn?t a simple word of thanks, or a note on a card it is a deep and meaningful attitude to life.

So what does that mean for us?

    1. ?I recognise? … We need to start looking for the good in our circumstances. It might be difficult to identify but we can look beyond the present circumstances and see the long term benefits. Focus on the positive aspects rather than dwelling on the negative. This principle can be applied to living abroad but it is just as relevant to marriage.
    2. ?I acknowledge? … We do not have to deny that things in our life are difficult or challenging but we can acknowledge that even when it is difficult that God brings good from it. Whether we are facing culture problems, language acquisition challenges or a deep sense of loneliness we can still acknowledge that God is with us.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

  1. ?I appreciate?… This is when our head knowledge drops into our hearts. This feeling can take a little longer than the others to fall into place. When we first moved to Hungary I struggled with appreciating our circumstances then one day the penny dropped! I started to see things from a new perspective and with a new attitude.
    1 Thessalonians 5:18  Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God?s will for you in Christ Jesus.

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