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31 Days of Free Writes - Thanks (31 Lessons: Thankfulness is essential)

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I feel like over the past five years God has taught me that thankfulness or the daily practice of gratitude is essential to living well. Thankfulness is a lifeline to me in times of trouble.  It tethers me to Christ and gives me hope.
I've fought to practice it in tough times and I have seen the damage it has caused me when I lost the corrective perspective of thanksgiving.  A lack of thankfulness and a declaration that what is, is not enough leads us down some treacherous and costly roads.  Even if its just one baby step at a time.
Thankfulness is key to ever believing things will get better because it is a continual concentrated effort to remain positive despite negative circumstances. Gratefulness is a fight that we lose if we aren't intentional.  If we can be discontent we can be defeated easily, chasing after something other that might seem to make us whole.
Negativity takes a toll on our relationships, brains, and physical well being.  None of us can take too much complaining despite if we are happy at the moment or are weary ourselves.  Like Samuel Johnson said, "To hear complaints is wearisome alike to the wretched and the happy."  We simply cannot bear unending negativity.
According to PsychCentral, some studies also show that the idea of venting negative thoughts isn't necessarily helpful.  For both the venter and the listener.
"A common perception of complaining or venting is that people feel better after getting their emotions out.  Contrary to popular belief, however , studies have shown that expressing negativity can be bad for the mood of both the complainer and the listener."
Negativity not only has the power to alter your brain synapses negativity has the power to alter the brain synapses of those listening to your negativity.  Perhaps that's why you feel an oppressive weight after talking to some people.  According to this article your brain starts to mimic their brain synapses so that empathy is possible.
http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/10/02/how-complaining-can-create-bad-karma-in-your-brain/
So maybe that's why when we rehash all of the ugly with a friend we feel many times uglier still.  Because instead of helping us reach out for good it keeps us strangling in a pit of despair.
Gratitude helps us both out.
Gratitude helps us snap out of that dark reverie.
Gratitude makes hope seem possible.
Gratitude makes us happier, too.
It's scientific.  According to Business Insider article " A Neuroscience Researcher Reveal 4 Rituals That Will Make you Happier" gratitude makes the list.  It biologically changes your brain.  It increases dopamine and possibly serotonin.  The interesting thing about gratitude is that you actually do not have to find something to be thankful for, the changes occur by simply looking for things.  It's a perspective shift. ( http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2015/09/make-you-happy-2/)
I know I have read more than once that I am twenty-five percent more likely to be happy if I keep a gratitude list.
I know it's worked for me whenever I pursue it and fill up the pages with thanks.  For everything and anything that crosses my day that is a gift and a grace.


My third girl captures the essence of living thanks to me.
When you have children there are always some characteristics that certain children possess that other's don't.  They exhibit different strengths and notice different things.
One thing my third girl does that my other girls didn't do is that she thanks me for everything.
Really.
I lean across the table and hand her a glass of milk and am treated to a perky, "Oh thank you mama!" Her eyes are so big, so brown, and burgeoning with thankfulness and happiness over milk.
I smile.  Her thankfulness over small things brings me pleasure.  I nod, "You're so welcome."
This pattern follows me throughout the day.
I buckle her into her carseat and kiss her forehead, "Oh thank you mama." She smiles and lightly kisses my cheek.
I'm delighted.  Just because she's so thankful of things so small.  Things that I would do anyways and never consider, but her thankfulness highlights the significance of every day kindness.
I brush her hair and help her put on shoes and once again I hear it, "Thank you mama." She beams up at me and sometimes when she's really happy her mouth will open up in a surprised "O" shape and her eyes dance.  Kind of like she just thinks life is great and yet it's just all so simple in her world.
She is elated and I'm just doing the normal things of being a mother.  The things I should do, nothing really to be thanked for.  And yet she does. She chooses to.

The look of surprise face 

It reminds me of the fact that when we focus on individual items that happen to us in a day, thanking God for them they become significant to us.  The day doesn't blur by unnoticed.  We have noticed even the small things by offering thanks for them. We have magnified the moment and we haven't missed it.  It is not lost on us.
This is new for me.  I have never had a child so eager to thank me for any and everything and do it from her heart.
Recently after we got home from a simple children's activity at the library, I opened the door for her she skipped in and said to me, "Thank you mama.  It was wonderful."
I stopped.  Wonderful? Well I wouldn't have called it that, but her perspective was and is contagious.
I want to be more like that.  I've had seasons in my life that I feasted on whatever God gave me and really saw it as enough and thanked Him for it.  And I've known what it was to lack faith, give up on hope and cease to thank Him finding myself  lost, depressed, confused and in a storm of trouble.
I want to walk the path of thanks.  No matter what expectations I must lay down to hold onto it.   I want to be like my almost four year old and open up my hands to whatever I am given even if it is seemingly small, insignificant , or perhaps not really what I wanted and still say with all my heart, "Thank you." Because none of it ever had to be.


Thankful, happy Third Girl 

Always smiles  Wild joy 




Comments

  1. I have been paying special attention to thankfulness for the past 7 or 8 years. It's made a profound difference in my life. A few years ago I came up with what I call "the first five". It's a little game where complaining is allowed only for the first 5 minutes of every hour. So, if you catch yourself (or some one else) complaining at 5:15, it stops and you have to wait till 6:00. Then you can complain about it but only till 6:05. This means that you either remember it or you let it go. You find yourself prioritizing your complaints. Added up, it's still 2 hours a day, which is plenty of time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like that idea. Thanks for sharing it. It would be a good practice for my kids

      Delete
  2. I love your emphasis on gratitude, friend. I've found that purposefully choosing that path has brought me peace and joy ... and alot less whining and negativity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda. Yes it's on purpose. Too bad it wasn't our normal. But it does seem to come back to us if we practice being intentional about it. Thank you.

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  3. Somer,
    That is priceless! What a sweet grown-up-little-girl who says her trip out with you was wonderful! Oh you must laugh a million times a day at what your girls say -- love her exuberance!

    Gratefulness sometimes is kind of hard for me -- my first words are often that things aren't as I expected and then out flows the grumbles, complaints, etc. This is an area I'm working hard to reshape and it takes so much discipline! I consider baby steps as marks of success and your girl, who is already thankful, is miles ahead of me! xoxox

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  4. Your daughter is adorable! Thank you for this reminder on the importance of giving thanks. It really is such an important practice!

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  5. "Gratefulness is a fight we lose if we aren't intentional..."
    I love that! Thank you for the reminder that gratitude and thankfulness are essential. So glad we could connect through 31 days.

    ReplyDelete

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