The Healing Power of Thankfulness
It’s the time of year that we begin to think about what we are truly thankful for. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, our hearts and minds tend to drift towards the good. People are posting on facebook something they are thankful for each day. We have our kids make thankful lists. We’re thankful…..at least in November.
When people are asked what they are thankful for, or have to come up with something for their daily post, list, etc, we tend to make fairly broad strokes…..We’re thankful for having enough food to eat…..a roof over our head…our wonderful children….our loving family….We hit all the big “hierarchy of needs” things….Those are easy…Those don’t require any real thought or reflection, and are constant (for most of us.) Ask anyone on the street to name something they are thankful for, and 9 times out of 10, I’ll bet you they say one of the following (food, family, freedom, friends.) It’s an automatic answer….it’s rote….compulsory. We’re supposed to come up with one thing a day we’re thankful for, so we just pop off an easy answer and go about our day….even if inside, we’re having a tough time finding anything to be thankful for. I think so often we just go through the motions of thankfulness….doing our duty….playing the part….I mean, it IS November, right? But, the real question is this….What happens on December 1st? Or,what happens when life isn’t so great?
It’s easy to be “thankful” when life is good. When our kids are happy, our bills are paid, we’re healthy….in those moments, it’s a bit easier to come up with something to be thankful for. But, what happens when life, well stinks? So often it seems nearly impossible to see beyond the trials of the moment (or the months, years, etc.) We allow ourselves to be consumed with the negative, and forget to even look for the positive, much less find a reason to be truly thankful…even grateful.
Several years ago, when we lost our baby Holden (see Losing Holden for more info), someone special to me suggested something…..She suggested giving thanks. At first, I was a bit hesitant….I had just lost my child…How on earth could I find something to be thankful for? However, I really respect this woman and wanted to try….had to try….So, I started my gratitude journal. Gratefulness is a deeper form of thankfulness….Gratefulness extends beyond our situation….outside of happy circumstances….It is a deep intrinsic appreciation, and cannot be faked….Gratefulness cannot be covered with a broad, “Today I am thankful for the wonderful school my kids attend.” type of statement. It’s easy to find those big “go-to” answers…..but, what are the things we truly, deeply appreciate….deep down at our centers…..the things that keep us whole even when we’re broken….I began to think of being thankful, as being blessed….
Each day, starting just a few days after my miscarriage, I began to write down a handful of small things that I could consider blessings each day. I also wrote down three to four things I wanted to pray for, and a promise of God to remember. I was so broken…..My heart was heavy and most days I had to do everything in my power to not sit on the couch and cry all day…I began to truly think about my day…my life…and reflect on the things that held me together…the things that I deeply appreciated…I was specific. I wasn’t just “thankful for my kids.” I wrote down things like, “Hannah’s bravery at the park,” and “a few precious minutes outside on the swings with the kids.” They were small, simple, very specific things that I NEEDED to count as blessings….When we begin to look at all the things that we really DO have, we allow ourselves to diminish the presence of the negative and keep ourselves together….to remain whole….to be truly and deeply thankful.
And oh, how it helped. I wrote in my little journal each night before bed. And, instead of crying myself to sleep each night, I reflected on the small but wonderful blessings in my life. Yes, my baby was in Heaven and not with me….BUT, I had blessings…meaning….things to praise the Lord for….I focused myself with things to keep praying for, and loved being able to track the answers to prayer and add them to the blessings as well. From a Christian perspective, reminding myself each night of one of God’s promises, really helped me find my center again…..and kept me from believing a host of untruths about my life.
I’ve been in bad situations since….and WISH I’d continued this journal during those times. We recently went through an awful time as a family….We were hit financially, emotionally…..Stress, personal attacks, lots of transition….It was a long and painful year for us, and I lost sight of my blessings for a long time. When I began to re-focus my mind and my heart on those simple day to day blessings, I was able to look past the trials, and see the meaning….the wholeness….the hope…In thankfulness there is great healing. A thankful heart holds a soul together….keeps you moving….I challenge you to start a gratitude journal of your own. Each night before you go to bed, take a few quiet minutes, and jot down a few specific blessings from your day. Be as specific as you can, and don’t fall back on broad-stroke thankfulness. If you’re a believer, I challenge you to write down a few things you’d like to pray for, as well as one of God’s promises. Do this for a week….two weeks…and watch…..See the difference that WILL happen. Your attitude will change. Your perspective will change. Thankfulness heals…..we just have to dare to see the blessings.