During the Thanksgiving season, we often focus on what we are grateful for and what God has done for us this year thus far. This is a great mental exercise to help us focus on the goodness of God rather than on our problems or the problems of the world.
Do you remember the hymn Count Your Blessings? The lyrics say: “Count your blessings; name them one by one. Count your blessings; see what God has done.” It is a great hymn reminding us to take time to reflect on the ways God has been good to us.
Why should we limit this exercise just to the Thanksgiving season? The Bible says we should have a grateful heart and praise God continually. Having such a mindset has a positive effect on all areas of our lives, including our relationship with God and others and our overall mental health.
- Being grateful can calm our anxieties and fears. It helps us focus on what God has done for us rather than on the ways that life feels out of our control. We can rest in the sovereignty of a God who takes pleasure in blessing us.
- Being grateful can also reduce our depression symptoms. When we think about all the ways God has come through for us, we are reminded that He has never left us nor forsaken us, though we may feel that way sometimes. Having a grateful mindset renews our hope and gives us strength.
- Being grateful has the effect of reducing our anger as well. When we focus on how God has blessed us we shift our focus from how others have mistreated us or how life seems unfair. Instead, we remember that God loves us and moves in our lives despite how others may have hurt us.
Counting our blessings is not an exercise meant to minimize or invalidate our feelings. Anxiety, depression, and anger are real emotions and we have to process the triggers for these feelings to fully resolve them. However, in the meantime, when negative emotions arise, focusing on our blessings can place those feelings in a larger context, one that includes a personal God who cares for us. It opens our eyes to realities that our negative emotions may have otherwise shrouded. Try it: “Count your blessings; name them one by one.” It may be surprised how much our perspective on our circumstances changes and much better we feel.