Thanksgiving reminds us to pause to recall the many blessings we have to be thankful for. To be intentional about being grateful. To notice the many things – might we also say people – we take for granted. Do you ever take enough time to
write (or type) a list of the many details of your life for which you are thankful? We know we don’t do it often enough, but we’re on it this year.
In particularly difficult seasons, it’s even more important to keep a gratitude journal; it doesn’t need to be anything elaborate …just a simple notebook works. Or the notes app on your phone. See how many reasons you can list in the next five minutes. It might surprise you in one way or another. What tops your list? And what does that tell you about yourself?
In the best of seasons, we can come up with lengthy lists, but when we’re in a difficult season, we’re prone to see the downside of things and in those times, it’s harder to come up with a long list. In the most difficult of seasons, it can be hard to think of even one. But if you try long enough, we’re sure you can come up with something – even if it’s the fact that you are alert enough to read this blog. Well okay, perhaps we’re grasping here but surely there’s something…
You see, when we’re being critical, it’s hard to show admiration. When we’re full of complaints, it’s hard to be content. When we’re stressed out, it’s hard to show understanding. When we’re worried, it’s hard to be cheerful. You get the point.
Thankfulness helps us have a more hopeful perspective. It causes us to look to the future with hope. Just like a critical spirit can cause us to always look for opportunities for improvement (to put it politely), a grateful heart causes us to look for the good in any given situation. Or at least the good that might result from the situation. And sometimes, that means diligently looking.
Have you ever noticed when you praise your kids for something they do, they’re more likely to do it again? It’s the same with our colleagues. Or have you ever noticed that your co-worker who’s grateful seems to find more things for which to be grateful, while the complainers continue to complain?
This can be easily explained…if we get in the habit of looking for the good, then it becomes an ingrained habit. Good or bad. It’s applicable to any of our relationships, and it’s living proof of Hebb’s Rule, “Neurons that fire together wire together.”
Coined in 1949 by neuropsychologist Donald Hebb, this axiom demonstrates how our repeated experiences/thoughts/feelings activate thousands of neurons, resulting in what’s known as a neural pathway. When we frequently have the same experiences or repeat specific thoughts, our brains trigger the same neurons each time, thus creating our individual neural pathways.
This helps to show why our thoughts and habits are so important – good habits that is! If we’re constantly critical, then our neural pathways become wired to be critical, whereas if we live with a spirit of gratitude then our neural pathways are wired to look for more things for which to be thankful.
We don’t know about you, but we want our neural pathways to be pathways that lead to gratitude, not just during the Thanksgiving season but all year long.
Singer Joann Shelton said “Praise moves me from Complaint Avenue to Thanksgiving Boulevard.” Joann, we want to live on your street!