As in cloud-over-the-head, storm-on-the-horizon, always-expecting-the-worst kind of pessimism. Growing up, I rarely saw the good in things. If you asked me to name one thing I was grateful for, I couldn’t tell you. My mind was so consumed with the things I wasn’t grateful for that I couldn’t even acknowledge the good things in my life.
And I wonder why I had so many problems. I mean, really.
The thing is, there are always going to be challenges and less than pleasurable circumstances in this life. Sadness will come and go. Financial trouble will grace the doors of your home at some point. Job troubles will fall unexpectedly in your lap. You will be tired, depressed or just plain moody at times. Your health may not always be the best. Circumstances may not always turn out the way you think they ought to, but in the midst of all that trouble, there is still good.
When we focus on the negative, it becomes all we see. The dark places crowd out the light, and our minds go there. To the dark places. To the negative places. To the places with no hope, no joy and no promise. To the places that make us forget that there really are good things in our life.
So we sit and wallow in our own little world of self-misery. We question God, asking Him why He allowed this to happen. We complain to those around us, attempting to spread our misery everywhere we go. We lose hope in the future, doubting that things will ever get better. We live in auto-pilot, always waiting for the next shoe to drop.
And on-and-on-and-on the cycle goes.
The only thing that can break the cycle is thankfulness. The purposeful acknowledgement of the good in our lives. Because – no matter who you are – there is always good. There is always something to be thankful for.
We just wrapped up the Christmas season and are well into the New Year. As the newness of the year begins to wear off, it’s easy to fall back into old patterns. It’s easy to forget the joy of last season and the excitement of something new. It’s easy to feel defeated in the face of things that just seem to always stay the same. Getting stuck in our rut becomes easier than embracing a journey of change. Wallowing in self-pity becomes more comfortable than opening our eyes and seeing the good.
Because there is good. There’s plenty of good, no matter how much bad surrounds you.
When I recovering from my eating disorder, I was challenged to focus on the good things in my life. The things that I enjoyed. The things that I was thankful for. The things that would make my life – eventually – good.
And if I’m being honest, it was hard. Acknowledging the good things in life after being conditioned to see only the negative is challenging (for want of a better word), but it is so worth it.
Life becomes easier. Challenges seem to shrink, even if just a little. Frustration becomes more manageable. Your emotions become just a little more stable. You become more enjoyable to be around (at least, that’s what the husband tells me).
Seeing the good in things doesn’t change your situation; it simply gives you a different perspective. It allows you to take a step back and look at things realistically, without the hindrance of erratic emotions or irrational thoughts.
Wouldn’t it be nice to begin this new year the right way? I’m not talking about starting a diet or new workout regimen. I’m talking about making some soul changes. Changes that matter. Changes that will not only improve our lives but make us better people in the process.
Changes that matter.
So as we begin this year, let’s not forget the good. Let’s remember that there is always something to be thankful for, no matter how dire the circumstances.