“Count Your Blessings, Instead of Sheep”
Last night was the coldest of the season, and as I snuggled into my warm bed, I couldn't help but think of the people who were not so fortunate. It's so easy to get caught up in the flurry of day-to-day hassles, especially at this busy time of year, that we don't notice or acknowledge how fortunate we are. The approach of Thanksgiving gives us a special opportunity to stop and take inventory.
An old Doris Day song has been running through my mind, about counting blessings. "When you're worried and you can't sleep, try counting your blessings instead of sheep..." Think you aren't blessed? Can you walk? Can you see? Can you hear? Think of the vets who have returned from combat, injured and unable to walk, see or hear. Yet even they are blessed. They returned alive when so many of their comrades did not. We in this country do not have to fear mortar shells striking our houses, as they do in parts of the Middle East, nor are we forced to endure refugee camps as do so many who are escaping civil war. Puts your problems into perspective, doesn't it?
So how do you change your focus to counting blessings, instead of problems? Psychologists and therapists often recommend a Gratitude Journal, and suggest making a daily list of 5-10 things for which you are thankful. I'm not that disciplined, but I do try every day to reflect on things that go right, rather than wrong; on small things that make me comfortable, or make me laugh. Here are some ideas that may help you focus on the blessings in YOUR life.
What food do you most enjoy?
Who was/is your favorite teacher?
What is your favorite color?
Who in your life are you grateful for?
What are your talents?
What is your favorite season of the year?
What is your favorite song?
Who did something nice for you this week?
What in nature do you appreciate?
What book have you most enjoyed?
What actor do you most admire?
What ability or skill do you have?
Who did you thank today?
What technology are you grateful for? (Mine is air conditioning. I grew up in south GA without it!)
What is your favorite place to be?
What is something you love doing?
What do you consider to be your best facial feature?
What is your favorite holiday?
How did you help someone today?
How do you show kindness to others?
Which of your senses are you grateful to enjoy (touch, smell, sight, sound, taste?)
What tradition is your favorite?
What challenge in your life are you most proud to have overcome?
What moment this week was your most enjoyable or meaningful?
What small thing happened today that you appreciated?
What small thing do you use daily that makes your life easier?
What form of expression do you most appreciate (art, music, dance, etc.?)
What friend/family member are you grateful for today?
My friend, Roberta, used to say, “If God would let us all sit in a circle and put our problems in the center of the table so that we could pick the ones we wanted, after seeing everyone else’s, we would quickly grab our own and go back home.” I’ve found that to be true, over and over again. See, we all have small aggravations and large challenges and issues in our lives. We also have small and large blessing throughout every day, and it’s easy to take them for granted.
I challenge you, during this holiday season, to be mindful of the things in your life that are going right, of the people around you who give purpose and meaning to your existence. Be grateful for them. Make a list of what and who you enjoy and appreciate, and read it often.
Here's the bottom line: When you choose to focus on gratitude, you are also choosing to be happy. You can’t avoid it. As the song goes, “...Try counting your blessings, instead of sheep, and you’ll fall asleep, counting your blessings.”