An Exercise in Thanksgiving
The following exercise is borrowed from Dr. John M. Gottman's book entitled, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, and is effective as a stand alone exercise for those desiring to grow in their ability to more consistently live a positive, joyful life of thanksgiving.
For one week try to be aware of your tendency to criticize, to see what is missing, to focus on what is not there and comment on it. Try instead to focus on what is right. Notice what you have and what others contribute. Search for things to praise. Begin with simple things. Praise God for the good things and people placed around you. Appreciate your own breathing, the sunrise, the beauty of a rainstorm, the wonder in your child’s eyes. Utter some silent words of thanksgiving for these small wonders in your day. This will begin to change your focus on the negative.
Give at least one genuine, heartfelt praise to a friend each day for an entire week. Notice the effects of this exercise on your friend and yourself. If you are able, extend the exercise one more day. Then add another day. Extend the exercise to others – for example, to your children. When you meet someone new, look for what is special about this person. Appreciate these qualities. Remember, this all has to be genuine and heartfelt. Don’t be phony. Notice these positive qualities. Enjoy them. Try to tell people what you notice and genuinely appreciate about them. Just find one thing for each person. Ignore the shortcomings.