“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” - Abraham Lincoln
A big birthday (one ending in 0) came – and I was feeling a bit depressed! I started the day off feeling sorry for myself. All I could think of was that life was passing me by, and I wasn’t where I hoped I’d be at this age: I wasn’t a governor, a general, a millionaire, or business tycoon.
Then I determined that I would force myself (I sure didn’t want to) to count my blessings one by one. It was hard at first but I kept going. You think you’ll just name a few things, or a dozen things – but if you try it – you can name hundreds. Can I tell you, after you’ve named dozens and dozens of blessings, it’s almost impossible to continue to feel sorry for yourself!
Author Ann Voskamp dares us to make a list of “One Thousand Gifts.” She encourages her readers to embrace a life of “radical gratitude.” In her book she describes how this discipline brought her out of depression. Leadership guru Zig Ziglar says, “The healthiest of all human emotions is gratitude.”
I believe it’s important to try to set our minds on positive things, not the negative. In our media dominant culture bad news is before us 24-7, 365 days a year. A toddler falling off a balcony in New York, an industrial accident in Texas, a tornado in Alabama, a senseless rash of gang shootings in Chicago. There is always bad news!
I remember a while back talking to a friend on the phone and she was lamenting about how terrible the bear attacks were out in the national parks this year, and she was all concerned and troubled about it. Now mind you, she lived thousands of miles from this national park. While we definitely should care about everyone and want no harm to come to anyone, I don’t believe you should dwell on bear attacks in Yellowstone unless you’re planning a camping trip there in the near future. If you dwell on all the problems and tragedies you hear about that are beyond your reach and maybe thousands of miles away you may soon develop Compassion Fatigue.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Philippians 4:8. The verse basically tells us what we should set our minds on. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about these things.”
Dr. Karl Menninger said “The first step to good mental health is to look away from oneself to others.” He went on to say that if he were having problems he would go spend a day in a rest home helping others. It seems to me that happiness comes when you take your mind off yourself.
I believe that each day we should try to greet others with a smile. We should appreciate others and let them know it. We can do that by giving them honest compliments and encouragement. Be a friend. Be a giver. Praise God and honor God. Thank God – no matter what. God is present where people are thankful.
I recently read an article by a man that worked in a hospice surrounded by people with terminal illnesses and facing the end of life. He wrote about the “Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.” He reported that not one said “I regret I didn’t make more money,” or “I wish I had worked harder.” He said that a central theme for a majority was this: “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends, I wish I didn’t work so hard, I wish I had had the courage to express my feelings and, finally, I wish that I had let myself be happier.”
Take time today to count your blessings one by one, write them down. Call an old friend. Remember that giving thanks is a way to joy. Choose to be happy.