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Choosing Joy Through Thanksgiving

Choosing Joy Through Thanksgiving

It is evident that we are experiencing a time of hardship in this world. It is no wonder that people are contending with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and emotional and relational distress, as we simply try to find the right path for ourselves and our families in a world that is making things harder and harder by the day. Things can feel overwhelming and even hopeless for even the most optimistic personality.

I’d like to take a look at a tool of discipline the Bible offers to combat and overcome these negative emotions. Thanksgiving. While it is easy and feels natural to give thanks when things are going well, it turns into much more of a disciplined adherence when things are not going our way. My proposed tool comes from a simple exercise I was asked to complete when I was in a state of depression, due to a possibly career ending injury I had sustained my first year playing collegiate volleyball. My trainer at the time, asked me to take 5 minutes every morning, before I did anything else, to simply write down any and every thing that I was thankful for. It seemed sort of silly, after all, how was being thankful going to help me recover from a devastating back injury?! But being the good psychology major that I was, I decided to give it the good old “college try”. As I completed the exercise each morning, I found myself filling multiple sheets of paper, front and back, very easily. I surprised myself! See, while I had been previously wasting all, or at least most, of my time, energy, and mood on my personal pity party, I hadn’t been allowing any space to reflect on the multitude of things I was grateful for, to fill my heart and thoughts. And subsequently, even more to my surprise, after completing the exercise every morning, I actually felt better and more motivated throughout my day! The exercise was formed through the theory of CBT; wherein, your cognitions affect your feelings, which in turn affect your behaviors, and the cycle continues in a circular fashion. 

While I’ve presented this simple exercise for individual use, it is also applicable in our relationships. Have you ever found yourself thinking negatively about your spouse, partner, or children? Maybe wishing they would do something different, or something more? Possibly even leading to a spiral of thinking that leaves you with contempt or resentment in your heart? Doesn’t this sound like one of the last ways you actually want to think and feel about your spouse or child? I would propose the same exercise, but in this case, insert your spouse or child into the subject line. “Reasons I am Thankful for my Husband/Wife/Child”. I imagine you may find yourself exuding a level of appreciation throughout the day that may otherwise not have been. If the things you are grateful for are called upon in the moment, it could stop a negative thought train in its tracks! Additionally, you may even find that when your spouse or child falls short, this extra cushion of gratitude you have created, makes it easier to give grace. It could greatly alter the environment of gratitude and appreciation in your home, which can lead to greater joy in your life and the life of your family. By choosing thanksgiving, you can choose joy. It really can be your choice!

Korina Brockhaus earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Chapman University in Orange, CA. She also obtained a Master of Science degree in Engineering Management from SDSM&T in Rapid City, SD; before deciding to pursue her Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from Capella University in Minnesota. She is currently completing her internship toward this Master’s degree.

Her related work history includes working with children and teens on the Autism/Asperger’s Spectrum to build emotional regulation skills, distress tolerance, verbal communication skills, interpersonal social skills, and achieve independence in the school setting. She also completed a previous internship with a private outpatient setting that had a focus on patients ages 6 and up experiencing the effects of trauma.

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