I’m sure you have heard a thousand times to “count your blessings” and focus on what you are thankful for rather than what you don’t have at the moment. Especially as we enter November and the USA Thanksgiving season, the command to Be Thankful is everywhere you turn. But for someone in the habit of pessimism and negative thinking, flipping the switch over to the opposite side of the dial takes practice, and it might require some preliminary understanding as to why the struggle to change is even necessary.
Back in my tween-dom, I had a habit of criticizing everything. I mean ev-er-y-thing. Before I ever knew what was happening, I had established a pattern of negativity in my mind and it found its way out of my mouth on a regular basis. After a while, my mother got so fed up with my critical opinions that she very wisely introduced a little “game” to help rewire my thinking. Any time she heard me complain or voice a negative view, she made me immediately list ten good things out loud about whatever I was criticizing. To the pain, indeed.
At that time, I detested Southern Gospel music, and I remember saying something ugly about a song we heard at church… Bad move, Tweenie Crista! It took me FOREVER to come up with ten good things about that song! That was about the time I figured out it was going to be much easier to keep my mouth shut than to go through the pain of thinking up TEN good things about whatever I already strongly disliked.
The funny thing was, the punishment for my negative attitude actually was a discipline in right thinking—in gratitude. Gratitude looks for the good in the person or the situation, regardless of what flaws may be there. Gratitude shifts your focus, yes, but it actually rewires your mind. So, knowing that my “punishment” for complaining was to list a bunch of good things not only helped me to keep my mouth shut when I had negative things to say, it also began re-ordering my mind to look for what is good and pleasant and praiseworthy.
Why does an attitude of gratitude work? Why is it necessary to struggle to count your blessings? Because it changes you from the inside out. Your situation may not change, but the way you view it and respond to it can change dramatically by choosing gratitude. In my past experience with depression, I know that choosing to thank God was part of my healing. I even began to thank Him for my pain and my heartache. He didn’t give that to me, but I chose to thank Him for what I was going through because of what He could do with it. As I formed a new habit of thankfulness and gratitude, my life changed. I had to work on it, believe me, but it was well worth the emotional and mental heavy-lifting I had to do.
Losing the habit of negativity is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family. Why not grab hold of the Gratitude Month and make a fresh start?
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8 NLT
Let’s practice! What are you thankful for today? Better yet, what is one thing you are having a hard time being thankful for? Now think of 3 reasons to be thankful for it!