Thankfulness is a theme that keeps coming up in my life. When times are hard, and days are tough, thankfulness is something I lean on to keep my head above the water. It seems like any time I need a reminder on the importance of thankfulness, something like this list below pops up on my Facebook feed.
Whoever wrote this has got it right — these are so true. In my single moms group, we will often talk about things we find challenging and try to come up with a way to turn it around into something we can be thankful for. It can be such a blessing to share what, to us, is an obstacle, and to have help in turning it into something that brings gratitude.
What a difference in attitude we have when we look at it from a different perspective.
Thankfulness, to me, does mean a change in perspective. It’s a choice we can make. I have written about perspectives before, and I think we all need to take off our “glasses of negativity” that give us limited sight and take a look at the bigger picture. Mommas, we all have things we struggle with. We all have things that annoy us, bring us pain, take us outside our comfort zones, but we all have an awful lot that we are doing right and that we can be thankful for in our lives.
Here are some practical steps that I have taken that may encourage you or bring more thankfulness into your life — and into the lives of your kids.
Making a conscious effort to examine my life and pick one thing to be thankful for every day — large or small — really starts to change your outlook and help you appreciate all the good things you do have in your life. A funny thing happens when you do this: you’re making the choice to shift your focus, just like the list above, not on the unfair things, the stuff that is hard, but instead to the things that truly bring us joy. And we realize, after a while, that we have a lot that brings us joy.
I have recently taken this idea and decided to begin a Thankful Journal with my kids during our devotions at night. The guidelines are that we each have to pick out one thing each day that we are thankful for, and we cannot repeat. I was just going to write a plain old list, but when we discussed the journal and why we were starting one, my boys wanted to add a key telling who said what, as well as include the dates. Since we have started, there have been a few nights when one of my boys has complained that there is nothing he is thankful for, but after hearing what his brother and I have written, and seeing me reach to put the journal away, all of a sudden he remembers something.
I believe strongly that it’s so important for my children to see what I am thankful for in my life, and for them to focus on things they are thankful for, too. For me, it has also been really insightful into how their young minds are thinking and what they value. All around this has been a such a good practice to get into.
No, I am not talking about manipulating others’ minds; I am talking about manipulating your own. Yes, really. You have probably all seen this inspirational poster.
I love it! Think about it. When you are the happiest, what thoughts are swimming around in your brain? When you are stuck in a bit of a depression, what are the voices saying in your head? We have more control over what we ruminate over than we want to admit. If you find yourself thinking about something negative, stop yourself, switch the thoughts in your head, and turn them into something positive.
Choose Your Words Wisely:
Once you get good at controlling those negative thoughts, think carefully about the words you choose to use. After years of marriage therapy, I am very careful about how I use the words “always” and “never.” Anytime you find yourself using those words, you are usually exaggerating the truth and it only leads to negative thoughts. (See above.) I find myself asking my children when I hear them doing this, if in fact they never get to pick out a Hot Wheels car at the store, or they always have to help their brother pick up his toys. If they are just exaggerating, I ask them to repeat themselves telling me a true statement. But, from time to time, I need to remind myself to do this as well.
Also, pay attention to how often you use negative adjectives when you are speaking about your life. Don’t talk about your awful job. Just drop the word awful and then begin to notice how the power of dropping that one negative word affects the tone of your sentence (and your attitude).
Write Thank You Cards/Letters:
Of course, it’s a customary practice in our society to write thank you notes for times when gifts are given, and this is a really great way to show our gratitude. But I encourage you to follow in Jimmy Fallon’s footsteps and take time to write a thank you note each week. Write to someone whose character you admire, someone who has done something nice for someone else and you noticed, someone who is a great person to work with and you want to let them know, or anyone else that has inspired you in any way.
In a world that seems more and more self-absorbed and conscious of what we don’t have, it may take a bit of training to begin to be more thankful. But your peace of mind is worth it. And, quite honestly, it is becoming more and more important to teach the art of thankfulness to our children.