Thursday, 13 June 2013

Thankfulness as therapy

Thankfulness and I have not always got along so well. In the past I was much more of a complainer, a whiner and a person who could sometimes be consumed by negativity.

I remember one birthday when I was ten-years-old I was given some beautiful gifts and one not so good gift. It was a porcelain doll from my grandma. A boy porcelain doll with shiny orange hair and glasses. I was not impressed or the least bit thankful. It is all captured on video camera too. I take one look at the doll and my mouth curves into a frown. My eyes cast downward and my hands go limp. I look like I am about to cry. I remember feeling like that gift took the pleasure out of all the other gifts. I couldn’t move on or get over it. My birthday was ruined.

Sometimes I really enjoyed being in an ungrateful and unhappy place, especially as a teenager. Then there was the time when I was in my early 20s and I went through a period of anxiety/depression and panic attacks. Perhaps all the years of negative thinking were boiling over.

At the time it felt like there was a trap - one negative/ anxious thought would hang in front of my eyes and I'd grab onto it. I would mull on it, believe it and let it consume me. I was like a mouse who had seen the cheese in a trap, taken a bite and SNAP I was stuck.

 However, over the years I have slowly learnt how to change my thought process. This I believe is attributed to God, a couple of months of counseling and a change in circumstances. Through it all I've learnt the vital importance of being thankful. I now try to practise a little something called, 'thankfulness therapy'.

Thankfulness therapy, otherwise known as "the attitude of gratitude", can take lots of HARD WORK. But after some time this little practice of thankfulness can come naturally.

Now, when I talk about thankfulness I am not talking about ignoring the bad stuff. There is nothing worse than hurting on the inside and trying to keep it together on the outside. It's important to be real, to be who you are, to share your hurts, your frustrations and pain. For me thankfulness is about being AWARE of what is good in your life, even when things aren't going right.

When I am having a difficult day (which can be quite often with two small children) I force myself to stop and ask: "What can I be thankful for right now?" I did this just yesterday when I felt completely overwhelmed by a mountain of mess in my house, a teething toddler, a never-takes-a-breathe-three-year-old and the usual "what am I doing with my life thoughts?" I took a deep breathe and thought of five things I can be thankful for that day...

  • I am thankful that I was so toasty warm in my bed this morning and that my husband let me stay that way until he had to go to work. Bless him.
  • I am thankful  that my daughter is going to preschool today so I can get some head space and sanity back.
  • I am thankful I got to make AND eat my breakfast before rushing off the preschool this morning.
  • I am thankful for family and friends who live nearby who I can spent time with and call upon in tough times.
  • I am thankful for the beautiful sunshine today.
These were just five small things but it really helped me get some perspective and refocus. If there are days where I am really struggling to find something to be thankful for I look beyond my own situation and think how many other people in the world are far worse off than me. For example:

  • Those who are incapacitated by sickness - I can be thankful I am healthy
  • People who are homeless - I can be thankful that I have a place to live
  • People who have no-one to love them and are lonely - I can be thankful for my husband, my kids, family and friends. 
  • The millions of people world-wide who are hungry - I can be thankful that I have a fridge full of food and that I can feed my children.
  • Those who are in the midst of war - I can be thankful that I live in a peaceful country where I don't have to fear for my safety.
No matter what we are going through, there is always something to be thankful for.
A year ago I read a most wonderful little book titled, 'Remember' by a brave woman named Rhonda Watson. She was dying from Motor Neuron Disease yet she felt a strong sense from God that she could help others learn about thankfulness, even in the worst of circumstances. She writes this about thankfulness:

"Thankfulness quells self-pity. It stops hankering after 'the good old days', the time before this all happened. The times when I could, when I had, when I was known for....The habit of thankfulness stops the habit of envy: I wish I had what she's got. I wish, I want. Thankfulness enables me to live in the moment. It accepts the present and looks for what is tasty, warm, pleasant, fresh and good. It takes my focus away from myself and allows me to see the needs and feelings of others."

What can you be thankful for today?

If you liked this post you may also like to read how I recently said goodbye to self pity


  1. I really, really needed to read this. Thank you

    1. Thanks for your comment Robyn. Loved your post today too!

  2. Really interesting post. Thanks for being so honest. I often find it easy to be negative too and it can sometimes go on for days. In the past, I've done the thankful thing. I think I will start it again. So, thanks :)