by Jennifer Andrews, M.S., LMFT – CCC San Francisco
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” ~ G. K. Chesterton
In my family we play a car game called “Yellow car, Banana Car”. The game involves 2 people, each person looking out of their side of the car and counting the number of yellow cars they see. Whoever gets the most wins. Normally we might not think there are many yellow cars on the road but when you start looking for them it’s surprising how many you can ﬁnd.
That’s a bit like life. What we look for we tend to see. If we choose to dwell on how bad things are, other people’s ﬂaws, our own ﬂaws, or look constantly for what is wrong with life, we will probably ﬁnd things to complain or feel bad about. We can usually ﬁnd evidence to support our beliefs just as we can when we look for yellow cars. Our beliefs about ourselves and the world are often shaped through our family, experiences, culture, and our temperament.
Many of us view the world through beliefs such as, ‘Other people don’t like me’, ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘failure is terrible’ etc. These kinds of beliefs tend to make us feel depressed and anxious about life regardless of whether these thoughts are in fact true. If we have these thoughts we tend to focus on the ‘evidence’ that supports them rather than looking for times when it’s clear they are not true.
What if we were to choose to doubt these negative beliefs and instead focus on what God tells us about ourselves in His word? If we choose to believe that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that we are important enough that Jesus would die for us, that we have been created in God’s image, etc.– we might see ourselves differently in relation to others and the world.
Disputing and restructuring our thoughts and beliefs is the premise of cognitive therapy, which research has shown effectively helps with issues like depression and anxiety. In this, the season of Thanksgiving, it will be helpful to consider what we can be grateful for and acknowledge our blessings rather than our flaws, or the flaws of others.
If you have a church member struggling with these issues the following 3 tips may help:
3 tips to help improve your mood and feel more grateful
- Identify your beliefs and ask yourself, ‘Is my belief true?’ ‘Are there other things I might believe instead?’ ‘Is it true that others don’t like me or that I’m not good enough?’ Look for evidence that might suggest alternative beliefs. Our memories tend to be selective. Purposefully look for times when you have done something well or someone has been friendly towards you.
- Search the bible for things that God says about His people and His promises and try changing your old belief for something Biblical. Write down 3 or 4 new beliefs on an index card and carry it with you. Every time the old thought comes up, refuse that thought and choose one of the new beliefs. After a few weeks the new thoughts will become more automatic.
- Look around you for things for which to give thanks. They may be small things such as your coffee in the morning, the beauty of nature around you, or a pleasant drive to work. Gratitude helps us focus on what we have rather than what we feel we lack.
Concluding thought: Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers and sisters, 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 such things. (NIV)
Book Recommendation: “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” by Ann Voskamp
Disclaimer: This article is intended as an educational resource only, and is not intended to be a replacement for treatment. For evaluation and treatment, please contact a qualified mental health professional.