Through the years, studies have found that the happiest people on earth do not live in the wealthiest countries. They tend to be in impoverished areas.
Why is this?
The people of Nigeria, for example, are said to be among the happiest. And the reasons for this are pretty simple. Among other things, people there have patience, modest expectations and are prone to show gratitude for all they have.
By contrast, too many people in the wealthier nations of the earth tend to suffer from stress and other emotional maladies. They have a lot of material goods, but for many of them there is little gratitude, only an impatient quest for even more material goods and a sense of frustration and stress for not having as much as their neighbor.
In some parts of the world, fall is the season for gratitude, highlighted by a Thanksgiving holiday observed at various dates. In the United States, this holiday grew out of a traditional proclamation issued annually by various presidents, and some of the most poignant of these came during times of hardship, particularly during the Civil War.
In 1863, amid horrible devastation, President Abraham Lincoln carefully noted all for which the nation should be grateful.
Then he wrote, "No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy."
And yet today, amid material blessings that would make earlier generations blush, too many people have forgotten gratitude. The results affect us both spiritually and emotionally.
Lauren Aaronson wrote recently in Psychology Today: "Feeling thankful and expressing thanks makes you happy and hearty, not hokey. Consistently ungrateful people tend to think that material goods, such as a big-screen TV, or winning the lottery will make them happy. People who recognize the blessings they have tend to think they'll get happiness from things such as fulfilling relationships which, research shows, are the real sources of satisfaction."
In modern revelation, the Lord has said that to be ungrateful is a sin of considerable magnitude.
"Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
"Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
"And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
"And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments" (Doctrine and Covenants 59:18-21).
Those who are grateful are promised blessings.
"And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea more" (Doctrine and Covenants 78:19).
President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, has said, "We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues" (April 1992 general conference; Ensign, May 1992).
It is unfortunate that prosperity often blinds people to this important truth. As the Lord has made clear, people ignore this important principle to their peril.