Here is the big news — science has rediscovered religion. Recent research suggests that there might be a “religion gene” in our DNA or a place within the human brain that houses “belief.”
Anthropologists and archeologists are also scientists, and they have known for a long time that religion has existed as far back as we can trace human societies. A good question to ask is this — why are humans the only species to practice religion?
In the past, religions helped humans explain what they could not understand. But the function of religion goes beyond filling in the gaps of our knowledge. Religions have also helped humans deal with the two biggest issues of human existence: the meaning of life itself and the meaning of death.
I would suggest, however, that religions have always helped help us humans deal with anxiety and stress by promoting what scientists now know to be a very healthy attitude.
This attitude is something that even a child can practice. And, as I watched my father several years ago in the last stages of dementia, I realized that this attitude persists even in those dark tunnels.
I won’t make you wait any long for this attitude to be named. The essential attitude promoted by all religions is gratitude. Put even more simply, uttering the words “thank you” aloud or silently begins to heal a lot of what often ails us on a daily basis.
The first benefit of saying “thank you” is that these words remind us that we, despite our thinking, planning, and executing, are not the creators of our own lives. To recognize that there is some power that we are indebted to for life itself, whether we term that power God, the universe, the Tao, or the ground of all being, helps us break free of the anxiety and stress that come with thinking only of ourselves.
Saying “thank you” also teaches us to trust that this outside power is biased in our favor. Whether we offer our gratitude to God, the universe, the Tao, or the ground of all being, such trust lets us live more fully in the present moment instead of fretting about the future of dwelling on the past.
Our ancestors found great comfort and encouragement in believing that the power behind everything not only knows us but wants us to become the persons we are meant to be.
Balderdash? Poppycock? Superstition? Don’t dismiss the power of gratitude too quickly. Science is discovering what religions have always known, that to begin and end the day by saying “thank you” offers great psychological benefits and no adverse side effects.
If saying “thank you” were packaged as a TV commercial, this would be the place where viewers would be offered a 30-day free trial. So, for the next month, why not begin and end each day with the two simple words “thank you” and see what benefits come your way? You just might be surprised.