“Grateful, Grateful, Grateful” sung by our Generations Choir stuck in the hearts and heads of so many of those who attended our Thanksgiving services. That phrase was posted over and over again on Facebook the next day.
There is something so powerful about maintaining this attitude that it became a foundational principle of the 12 steps of AA and other recovery programs. Being spared a life of permanent bondage is certainly a reason to rejoice.
“As a man thinks, so is he” is a well known Proverb. Keeping our minds focused on the good and positive in our lives is a way to maintain our balance even during tough times. It is a potent tool to use for staving off depression and bitterness and finding our equilibrium when challenged by life’s uncertainties.
So how do we sustain this thanksgiving attitude all year long?
One way I have found very helpful is keeping a ‘gratitude journal’. It is an exercise that I often assign to clients that are struggling with life’s challenges. When we are going through hardships it is particularly hard to hold on to the good things that are part of our lives.
It seems most helpful for me to keep an ongoing list of the good things in my life rather than looking to find them when things are not as I wish they would be. My journal is a way of having tangible evidence of those realities when I am not feeling them. In my journals I do not shy away from recording the anxieties and stressors that I face, but I do not let them have all the real estate.
One other tool I use that is similar is an affirmation scrapbook. Nan has made up a couple of them for me on my birthdays, but I also have assembled one on my own. It contains prayers, cards, emails, letters, pictures and other indications that my life has meaning and purpose. I pull it out and read through it when I am feeling discouraged because of a current situation I might be facing. It is particularly needed when the circumstances are beyond my control.
I have found the secret of a joyful life and it is this: Being grateful for what I have rather than angry or bitter for what I do not.
I am not talking about killing our desires, for within them are contained our hopes and dreams. I am just saying that the fulfillment of those desires should not be the determinant of our happiness.
So start a journal, or get out paper and pencil (if you still have them) or create an electronic list and post the results in a prominent place. Then read it and add to it often. It will make a difference – I promise.