Don’t get me wrong, I’m typically a pretty upbeat person.
I try to find the good in situations and be an encouragement to others. But let’s face it: life is hard. Expectations aren’t met, sickness takes over, people fail, friends die, families fall apart … the list goes on.
The truth is that no one is immune to heartache, disappointments, and hardships.
When those seasons have come into my life, I find myself asking: "What did I do wrong?" "Maybe if I did such-and-such or said just the right thing, then everything would be fine."
All I could do at those times was think about where we went wrong or why God wasn’t changing my children and making my life happy. But I’ve learned that instead of asking woe-is-me questions, a much more effective approach is making positive statements.
Allow me to explain.
I remember the days each of my four kids were born. I thought they could do no wrong. They were so tiny, so fragile, so perfect. Then they learned to walk and talk! So how did these happy, intelligent, mischievous, curious children go from homeschool to public school to outright rebellion? And how did I find my upbeat, positive self begin to struggle with depression? I stayed in my room focusing on how I could change things — crying out to God for answers.
After lots of “Hows” and “Whys,” God helped me realize I was prejudging His work in the lives of my children. Questioning His methods. Forgetting that just like an artist can imagine the final outcome of a work even before it takes shape, that God KNOWS the final outcome and I can trust Him with my children.
That was the turning point for me.
I had to come to the place of accepting that I literally had no control over the choices they were making, but I did have control over the choices I made.
I had a choice to remain where I was, or to choose to move out of this unhealthy state of mind. I choose to change my mindset by finding no less than four things each day to be thankful for. I kept a journal in my purse or by my bed and would write things down as I thought about them. It started simple enough: thankful for a sunny day, thankful for food on my plate, thankful for a roof over my head.
But as time went on, they got a little deeper. While I was washing dishes I would notice the beauty in the sun reflecting off the soap suds, or how fun it was to watch the squirrels chasing each other in the front yard, or even amazement in observing ants carrying a piece of popped corn three times larger than themselves across the sidewalk.
Slowly, my eyes opened to the beauty around me and my heart was truly being filled in the little daily things that life had to offer. Situations may not have changed, but my attitude towards them did. After a year, I had written down 1,200 things for which I was thankful.
There I times I refer back to that journal and am reminded of God’s faithfulness — another thing to be thankful for. Life is not perfect, and I don’t think it ever will be while on this earth.
The bottom line, no matter what you believe, choosing to look at life through the lenses of thankfulness (a feeling) and gratitude (an action) can be one of the healthiest decisions you can make.
So my challenge to you is to make it a point to express gratitude. Writing it down helps, but maybe simply speaking it out loud or taking a picture of what you’re thankful for is more your style.
The point is that just like we recommend people to nourish their bodies by routinely taking the supplements they need, that we also encourage you to nourish your mind and heart by expressing gratitude. And not just during the holiday season, but every day — all year. You’ll thank me later.