When my husband and I were in university my husband entered what was almost a depression. (I say almost because though most of his drives were gone--to sleep, to eat--he still had a sex drive! But that's another story).
He was in medical school, which is a brutal place for him to be. He was told day in and day out how stupid he was, how there was no way everyone in the class would pass, how they should know all this stuff by now, etc. etc. He had to memorize minutiae after minutiae, and he's more of an extraverted, hands on kind of person.
It was killing him.
But it was only temporary. And he couldn't see that. I could see that if he could just hang on for two more years, he'd be seeing actual patients and practising medicine, rather than just studying it. And that's a whole different ballgame.
Nevertheless, he was feeling very sorry for himself. Now I admit I wasn't the most sensitive sort. I get a little fed up when people mope. So I told him that everyday he had to think of five things to be thankful for, write them down, and pray over them. Even if they were little things, like seeing a sunrise, or having a child smile at him.
So he did. And it honestly helped. And in the fifteen years since, whenever he has felt depression coming on he has done exactly the same thing. He made it a point to always come up with five NEW things, so it was like a challenge. And everyday he was scouring everything that happened to find his five. So he was on the lookout for things to be grateful for, rather than for things to be upset about.
Over the years I have had to resort to this, too, because I have entered my fair share of down times. When we were having difficulty in our marriage in the first few years I had to do that: everyday, list five things I'm grateful for. It helped me focus on what I loved about him, rather than on what was bugging me. And it really did give me a different attitude.
And when my son was sick, before he passed away
, everyday I would write down five things that were great about that day. I knew that our days with him were numbered, and I didn't want to forget anything. The night before his surgery, which only had a 25% chance of survival, I sat with him and made a whole list of the wonderful things about him I didn't want to forget. Here are a couple of them:
1. How he just loved his soother!
2. How he had such spunk, kicking the nurses everytime they came to poke him. He was a fighter!
3. How his little tongue would push out the medicine because he didn't like it, but he'd always calm down as soon as you held him.
4. How he sighed contentedly while I was holding him when he was feeding.
5. Singing to him while I was hugging him and he was sleeping.
And the list goes on to 99 things.
I remember crying while I was writing it, and I'm even tearing up now, because I do miss him. But it helped me to focus on the positive during a very difficult time.
That's what thankfulness is for. It makes us search out positive things, rather than focusing on the negative. Many of us have tendencies to dwell on all the injustices done to us, or all the things we have failed to do or accomplish. An attitude of thankfulness changes that.
I truly believe that if more people became thankful fewer would become depressed. So I practice thankfulness.
It's not Thanksgiving where I live. We had it last month. But to all my American friends, I wish you a wonderful day full of yummy turkey, peaceful relatives, and others who are more than willing to do the dishes!
And for all of us, wherever we may be, I wish that God may help us to focus on our blessings, so that the trials pale by comparison.