A month is a long enough time to take stock of your life. I am on a personal campaign to extend Thanksgiving Day to Thanksgiving Month (at least in my life).
Dr. Dan Baker, director of behavioral medicine at the National Center for Preventive and Stress Medicine, writes in his book, What Happy People Know, “Your mind, when focused on appreciating has an unparalleled power to trigger physical and emotional healing.” Understanding that it is hard for people in normally busy circumstances but especially when experiencing trying events to focus the mind positively, Baker has developed the “Appreciation Audit.”
My problem is not so much that I am not grateful, or that I don’t take the time to recognize and record the things for which I am thankful—I have kept prayer journals for 40 years, and I always begin each day’s work sessions with a list of happenings for which I am grateful. My problem—maybe it’s a form of non-dietary gluttony—is that I always have lists of things I still hope to achieve. My husband David says to me, “As soon as we get one thing done, you have ten more that are still undone.”
I’m afraid I may treat my God a little like I treat (mistreat) my husband. “Oh, gee, thank you dear Lord for helping me to move so productively through my days, but if you’re still listening, there are a couple of pages of stuff I need help with…”
Dr. Baker cites studies that show the brain cannot process both fear (one of mankind’s dominate negative emotions) and appreciation at the same time. I wonder if this truth is also appropriate for a woman who keeps seeing the things that are not done instead of exulting in things that have been done.
The Appreciation Audit, when practiced (and this is a big when), is designed to create a shield in the brain against fear, hate and anger. He recommends that learners start with a fundamental form of the Audit:
- Reserve three minutes, preferably three times a day,
- To think about something you appreciate, and
- Keep your mind focused until you see the beauty of gratefulness rising.
OK, OK. How can I adapt this to my proclivity to focus too much on the undone rather than exulting in the well done? I know from my work in behavior modification that a practice must be established in order to result in change. So every day for the next month, I will seek out the things God has helped me do and not feel mind-boggled by the things that are still left for us to complete.
My motto for this Thanksgiving Month is : Be happy. Be healthy. Give thanks.
Award-winning author Karen Mains has long had an interest in spiritual formation and the obedient Christian walk. She has written about the God Hunt in her book by the same name, The God Hunt: The Delightful Chase and the Wonder of Being Found. A hardback copy can be ordered from Mainstay Ministries for $10.00 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to autograph a copy for you.
Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags, Africa bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
For decades, Karen and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. They are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Likewise, pastors will find special resources to help them prepare effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.