The good of gratitude

| Kate Soucheray | November 6, 2019 | 0 Comments

November is the month of gratitude, the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving and the beginning of the busy holiday season. All the year round, however, some people keep a gratitude journal, in which they focus on the positive aspects of their day, noting these events rather than focusing on what did not go well.

As a therapist, I know how important it is for optimum brain health for us to think about the positive aspects of life, rather than to think only of how things did not work out as we had hoped or how discouraged we have become, due to a loss or disappointment. And yet, focusing on the negative is much more common for human beings, rather than to think happy and joyful thoughts.

If we look to the early humans, we see that the ones who survived to procreate were those who tended to be wary and skeptical, thus more careful in their daily living, which often came about through more negative, rather than positive, thinking. The question is: What can we do, when we are naturally programmed to worry, to become more positive? How can we overcome this genetic predisposition to be “wired for worry”?

Here are a few ideas of simple ways that may help you become a more positive person, so you can see the glass as half full, at least some of the time.

First, try to assume the best of others. Whether this is a marriage partner, a business associate or a friend, try to ascribe goodwill to the other person and work to understand that everyone is just doing the best they can. Your acceptance and kindness may be exactly what the other person needs to make a change in his or her attitude and life.

ACTION CHALLENGEConsider starting your own gratitude journal this month and maintain it throughout this busy holiday season. Take time each day to notice the good things that happen and offer praise and gratitude to God for his goodness to you. If you like, continue the practice of noticing daily gratitude into the new year.

Second, try to be a little nicer to yourself. It is easy to judge ourselves when we have made a mistake, big or small, which can make it difficult to demonstrate compassion for ourselves, thereby increasing the anxiety we already feel. When we feel and feed anxiety, we perpetuate the negativity racing through our body and brain, which becomes nearly impossible to turn off. This negativity can cause us to become sick, it can hurt our relationships, and it can impede our relationship with God, due to the shame we feel.

In his letter to the Colossians, St. Paul encourages his listeners to let the word of Christ dwell within them richly. He also encourages them to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in their hearts to God (Col 3:16-17). Prior to his encounter with the risen Christ on his way to Damascus, Paul was known for his persecution of Christians and his disrespect for the followers of Christ. He was completely transformed through his encounter with Christ, and out of his conversion came his complete devotion to God’s will for him.

What if each one of us were to live with this same dedication: that we, too, have complete devotion to God’s will for us? How would this change us and how would it change our lives? Would we become more present in our encounters with one another? Would we become more compassionate toward the suffering of people in need and attempt to be Christ’s presence to them? Would we be more courageous and confident in living our lives, striving only to provide a living example of Jesus’ presence in our interactions with others?

If this is what we strive to become, then it seems we must work to accept the events and occurrences of our lives, and with gratitude, let the word of Christ dwell richly in us, as we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God. It seems we must strive to surrender our will to the will of God, and in his wisdom and grace, allow him to mold and shape our lives so that we emulate Christ’s self-giving, obedient nature in all we do.

Soucheray is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of Guardian Angels in Oakdale. She holds a master’s degree in theology from The St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul and a doctorate in educational leadership from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.

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Category: Simple Holiness