It’s been a week since the big “Day of Thanks” here in the US. Are you still thankful?
A week ago today most of us here in the US spent the day gorging ourselves on turkey and stuffing and pie and all kinds of food we don’t normally eat on a routine basis. It’s a festive time of celebration and giving thanks and remembering all of our blessings.
As great as it is to have a national day of thanks, I’m wondering how many of us are still feeling thankful? How many of us have gone back to focusing on all the things we don’t have or all that is wrong with our lives? It’s easy and maybe even natural to do.
The Thankfulness Dividend
Shawn Accor, in his famous TEDtalk, explains that we often get happiness backward. In the context of thankfulness, we often approach life by thinking that we’ll be able to be thankful once we get what we want. In the context of marriage, we think “when my spouse does ______” or “when my spouse stops doing _______,” then I’ll be thankful for my marriage.
But here’s the truth. If you start being intentionally thankful for what you have, for the marriage you have now, for your spouse, the way he or she is now, you will discover what I call the “thankfulness dividend.”
Shawn Accor puts it this way:
When our brains constantly scan for and focus on the positive, we profit from three of the most important tools available to us: happiness, gratitude, and optimism.
He also explains that the opposite is true:
Constantly scanning the world for the negative comes with a great cost. It undercuts our creativity, raises our stress level, and lowers our motivation and ability to accomplish goals.
In short, being thankful for the marriage you have is likely to move you toward the marriage you want. Scientific studies confirm that your brain at positive performs significantly better than it does at negative, neutral, or stressed, because positivity cause intelligence, creativity, and productivity all to rise.
A Lifestyle of Thankfulness
It isn’t just brain science that compels us toward a thankful attitude. It is also a scriptural mandate.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thes 5:18
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Here is a helpful little exercise to help train your brain in thankfulness. Every day, for the next 21 days, write down 3-5 things you are thankful for. Make at least one of them about your spouse or marriage. Put them somewhere that you can easily refer to them, like composing a note on your phone or writing in your journal. After you’ve completed the 21 days, refer back to your list frequently and add to it regularly. It’s important to rehearse your thanks.
Especially as we move into what can be a stressful holiday season, let’s all commit to making thankfulness a lifestyle instead of a one-day event.