By nature, I am a negative person. Unless I make a conscious effort to view life positively, I tend to see the glass as half empty. As someone who has suffered from depression, I can easily fall into a blue funk, focusing on everything that is wrong in the present or was wrong in the past.
It has taken a lifetime for me to understand that gratitude is more than an emotional reaction to the good that comes our way. Rather, gratitude is a decision. I decided to be grateful. I chose to start looking at life through a different lens, recognizing all the things for which I am thankful, both big and small. This “attitude of gratitude” is not the same as denial. Far from it. I don’t pretend everything is fine when it isn’t. Rather I focus my energy on addressing issues through direct, honest conversations with people. That way, interpersonal problems don’t fester and pollute my relationships. Often, I’ve had to deal with past mistakes and unresolved matters before I could open my heart to gratitude.
Many years ago, someone gave me the book, Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. As an accompaniment to that book, Breathnach published The Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude which gives the reader a daily opportunity to record something for which s/he is grateful. Depending on our circumstances, it isn’t always easy to feel grateful. Sometimes we can’t think of a single thing to list. In the first few pages of the journal, Breathnach offers 150 suggestions of “often overlooked blessings.” Here’s a sampling:
- Reading a book that changes your life
- Serenity as you pay bills
- Waking up early enough to watch the sunrise with a cup of tea of coffee
- An afternoon to do as you please
- Holding your child [grandchild] in your arms
- Meeting a deadline
I must admit, as easy as this exercise sounds, I fail at it often. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in anger, frustration, anxiety, or fear that I can’t seem to muster an ounce of gratitude. Instead of focusing on all that is good in my life, I fall into old patterns of feeling sorry for myself or allowing worry or doubt to overwhelm me. That’s when I pull out Breathnach’s book and start thanking God for my blessings, however insignificant. Sometimes my utterance is simply, “Thank you for life.”
The premise of saying “thank you” until I feel thankful is so simple that I end up wondering how I could have allowed my heart to close off from gratitude for even a minute. I’ve learned that gratitude has transformational power. Psalm 22:3 states that “God is enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” In other words, God inhabits our praise (gratitude; thankfulness). As God’s child, I believe it, but sometimes I forget to own it.
Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories, a novella, Diary in the Attic, and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com