In addition to her training as a counselor, my friend Rebecca has unique gifts of wisdom and insight that help her guide others to spiritual health and wholeness. She shares her journey of how giving thanks helped her cope with her own loss. After reading Rebecca’s words, I believe you’ll feel like you have been blessed with a personal counseling session with her–you may even be changed by her insights.
GUEST BLOG: Rebecca Woodman
Gratitude is a choice, available to anyone. It is a choice that holds the power to change our entire perspective. It is a choice that turns into an attitude and an attitude that can then become a habit. Learning to be thankful and practicing giving thanks can be transformative in taking negative thoughts and finding positive return, ultimately blocking toxic emotions.
Scripture tells us in Psalm 100:4 “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise.” Begin your conversations with God, the Creator of the universe, and your conversations with the people who He has placed in your life with gratitude and thanksgiving.
Some of the ways that I help those who come and sit on the couch in my counseling office understand that his/her current struggle does not have to ruin or dictate life is by helping the client understand how to look for the gifts and be grateful, even when life is throwing its fastest curve balls. Encouraging those who are challenged to find the positive to think of one thing each day for which to be thankful. Some questions to get folks started could include:
- What is one thing that is going well in life right now for me?
- How do I see that my needs are being met?
- How can I help someone today? Who would that be?
There is a difference between feeling grateful and being grateful. Feeling grateful is a response to a benefit. Being grateful is a way of life. John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude we must never forget the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Research on benefits of gratitude from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology help us to understand that there are psychological, physical and interpersonal benefits to a heart filled with appreciation. Those who understand how to be thankful are found to be more alert, energetic, have higher scores on scales of happiness and optimism, achieve better sleep, have improved immune response, are shown to be more helpful and connected, feeling less lonely and isolated, among many other positive outcomes.
I personally learned after the loss of two sons born stillborn that counting our blessings was one of the only ways to survive the pain. Counting my blessings when at my weakest state helped me to gauge my healing and served as a marker in time – recognizing all that was good, even in those moments when the tears fell so easily. Thanking God, even in the midst of a storm, is really an expression of faith. A thankful heart can bring about faith and faith can move mountains. Author Charles Dickens said it as, “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.”
Our Life Group has been memorizing Scripture together weekly and it has been a pretty cool, unifying experience. This particular week, our verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” THIS is God’s will. Even if there were not all of the positive benefits to uttering a simple “thank you” and even if I had not learned in the midst of struggle to look for the hidden blessings, I would still be convicted by Christ’s words that HIS will for my life is a heart of appreciation. I will choose gratitude.