Count Your Blessings!
In our world today it's easy to feel totally stressed, overwhelmed and on edge. A good way to deal with this is to practice gratitude - by literally becoming aware of the many blessings we have. This can be difficult to do - especially when you're constantly putting out fires. Here are some pointers to get you moving in the right direction.
Become aware of the good things in your life. What are you taking for granted? A couple of years ago I was running around, trying to get things crossed off my list. It was a Friday afternoon and I ran by the grocery store on my way home. The cashier was a young man who looked to be in his early 20’s. He casually asked me if I had any plans for the weekend. I replied that it wasn’t anything exciting – I was going to be doing laundry, cleaning my house, doing some weed pulling and things like that. I’ve never forgotten his response.
He looked at me and said, “I’d kill to have a day to get all those things done”. I realized he was probably juggling several jobs and had to squeeze in those maintenance chores whenever he could. I said a quick prayer for him and thanked God that I did have time to get regular tasks done. Now, whenever I start mentally complaining about how many routine tasks I have to do, I thank God for the time to do them. It really changed my perspective!
Shift your focus. Whatever we focus on shapes how we think, act and feel. If we focus on our problems, we begin to feel negative, out of control and anxious. So once God points out the good things in your life, shift your focus to those. Thank him for giving them to you. Realize how blessed you are and keep coming back to those blessings.
Have you ever seen some optical illusions? There’s one of an old woman – or is she a young woman? Your eye keeps shifting back and forth in the beginning, but after a while you usually settle on one version and that’s the one you see. I usually see the young woman – even though I know the old one is still lurking there! I like the young woman better – so I keep shifting my focus to her.
Record your gratitude. That’s right, put pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard) and keep a record of the things you’re thankful for. It’s easy to be “generally grateful”. Making a record of things we appreciate helps us create “specific gratitude”. It’s another way of drawing our attention to our blessings and be really appreciative of them.
They don’t have to be big, major things either. Let me give you a few examples of things on my list.
· The warmer weather.
· Less pain in my hip today.
· Being able to walk outside this morning.
· Enjoying watching my dog run around the backyard barking at squirrels.
· Being able to have healthy food in my refrigerator and pantry.
· Having good books to read.
· Being blessed with amazing friends and family.
· Having an awesome church to go to – and being able to go in person – not just online. (Covid really made me appreciate in person church!)
Those are some things I’m grateful for that I thought of just in the past 10 minutes. What’s on your list?
Let people know how much you appreciate them - and why. I specialize in helping people lower their anxiety and, especially after Covid, anxiety abounds! I’ve found that when I make it a point to thank someone or express appreciation, it has a calming, uplifting effect on the person who is being thanked. It also makes me feel good! I’ll give some examples of what I try and do.
· A few weeks ago, I changed my online provider. The technician who came out took his time, was very thorough and did a great job. I told him so and the startled look on his face told me that he didn’t get that kind of feedback very often.
· I like to eat out – when I do, I always make it a point to let the manager at a restaurant know if waiter did a good job. Unfortunately, I don’t do that one all the time because good service isn’t always the norm. But if I get a great waiter/waitress I express that. It can go on their personnel record and they may get a bonus for it.
· I’ve started telling people I care about that I love them. Yes, at times it feels a little awkward. But I’ve realized that life is so uncertain that if something happened to a friend or family member, I would feel even worse if I hadn’t told them recently how much they mean to me. Also, this gets easier as you do it more.
Pay it forward. When I think about all the good things in my life I’m reminded of the guideline, “To whom much is given, much is required”, Luke 12:48. Since God has blessed me so abundantly, the least I can do is to spread the love around. He doesn’t just bless me because I’m such an amazing person – He expects me to pass blessings on to others.
And there are so many ways to do this! Here are some ways we can do this:
· Pray for other people – don’t just say you’re going to do it – make a point to lift them up regularly. It makes a difference.
· Be willing to be inconvenienced. This is one I still struggle with. I’m great with routines and once I have them in place, I don’t always like them to be disrupted. But sometimes helping others requires that. So I’ve found myself giving people rides who are out of my way, listening to someone (and really paying attention) when I didn’t have time in my schedule to do that, or meeting someone for a meal and talk when I really wanted to stay home and relax. God is more concerned about us ministering to others – not so much as us staying comfortable.
· Tithe regularly. Something I’m not proud of is that for a while I wasn’t tithing. My income was down and I didn’t feel that I could afford to tithe so I didn’t for a year or 2. I finally listened to what God was saying and realized that I needed to be doing this. I started back giving regularly and was blessed by God giving me a true love for financial giving – I love doing it! Yes, sometimes I do it with some misgivings – but God has never let me down and has always met my financial needs. I’m so glad I’m doing this again.
The point of all this that even if you don’t typically have an, “attitude of gratitude”, you can teach yourself to acquire one. It involves some deliberate changes and being aware of what you’re telling yourself, but it can be done. And I believe cultivating a thankful heart is completely worth the time and effort involved!
If you typically give yourself negative, toxic messages and have a hard time expressing or feeling gratitude, try changing those old messages to some that are positive and helpful – like these.
1 – I am aware of how God has richly blessed me and I am truly thankful.
2 – I am thankful for the beauty of nature all around me – God is so creative!
3 – I am aware of all my blessings, and do my best to pass blessings along to other people.
Say things like these to yourself several times a day – it’s a great way to reprogram you brain, attitude and actions!