Confronting Negativity with the Spiritual Discipline of Thankfulness

2016 Masquerade Volunteer Planning Committee

2016 Masquerade Volunteer Planning Committee

By Katherine Forbes-Smith

Love it or hate it, it's almost time to fall back again. This Sunday at 2 a.m., Daylight Saving will strike, and your iPhone's clock will adjust to show an hour "earlier" when you wake up in the morning. With this falling back, you can be guaranteed of an increase in grumbling about the cold weather, piles of snow, and bad driving conditions that seem to dissipate only over the few, short summer months of nice weather.  Shorter, colder days can lead to lots of negativity at work, on the sidelines of kids sporting events, and pretty much anywhere we go.  These negative comments, while often times just fillers of innocent conversation, can cause us to feel negative, and can affect our mood, perspective, and ultimately, our joy.  

In my medical practice at Bridgewater Pediatrics, I frequently see patients who meet the diagnostic criteria for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons. Normally it begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.  

However, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, November is the month where we are invited to focus on the things with which we are thankful. Thankfulness is the antonym of miserable, disgusted, or critical.  It’s the remedy for negativity.  I love the 30 day Thankfulness Challenges that often times pop up on Facebook in November -- 30 days of posting what we are thankful for.  We all know we are blessed and have so much.  But the habit of our mind is often to focus on the things are that bother us, giving fuel to the fire of our negativity and anger, which can ultimately be a contributor to depression, anxiety and serious mental health issues.  

It’s incredible what Thankfulness can do to change our perspective. Being mindful of the things we are thankful for has been a game changer for me in my life.  With the demands of a  full-time job, the responsibilities at The Well, and raising 3 active kids, I can definitely find myself slipping into the patterns of negativity--thoughts and articulations of injustices, unfairness, and negative perspectives.  And when I’m really struggling, I pass this negativity on to my husband, my kids, my friends and my coworkers.  But practicing the discipline of Thankfulness changes that around.  I keep a journal next to my bed and I write down 2-3 things every morning that I’m thankful for.  And I often do it before bed too.  Throughout the day, I allow my mind to meditate on those positive things in my life, resulting in less anxiety and fears along with more joy and positivity.  Choosing to focus on the good and being mindful of the blessings not only makes us feel happier, but it changes the neurochemistry of our brain.  It taps into the “feel good hormones” that our body releases which ultimately, brings us greater joy, peace and contentment. 

So today, I’d like to share with you what I’m thankful for.  Last night, 10 lovely friends and volunteers celebrated with me in my home over dinner.  We celebrated a very successful Masquerade fundraiser that was held on October 21st.  We raised over $70,000 to support an organization that I thank God for every day.  The Well serves the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of hundreds of kids, teens, adults and families every year.  I’m incredibly grateful to these lovely ladies who donated their time, talents and even financial resources toward this event.  Without them, we never could have pulled it off and the doors of The Well wouldn’t remain open to those who need it the most.

My heart is full of gratitude today and for that, I’m thankful!