Using Gratitude to Fight Negative Thinking
I’ve recently been challenged to evaluate my thoughts for negative thinking and instead replace those thoughts with gratefulness and a positive perspective. This is especially important because our thoughts drive the attitudes we have, the actions we take, and the words we say. Jesus taught that the things that are in our hearts (souls) are like treasure hoards, and whatever is most abundant in our hears will come out in our words:
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
- Luke 6:45 ESV
With this in mind, I have purposed to start evaluating my thinking to identify negative thoughts, such as resentment, anger, complaining, murmuring, jealousy, etc. Then, by God’s grace, I want to replace those thoughts with gratitude to God and others for the blessings that I can find that are directly related to whatever I’m feeling frustrated/sad/hurt about. I expected that this would come in handy at the office at the beginning of my week, but I received my first “test” of this resolution even before I started my day today.
Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night and needed to take a quick trip to the bathroom. I was barely awake, yet as I stumbled around our queen-sized bed towards the door of our master bathroom, I tripped over a pillow that had been left on the floor, and inwardly started thinking resentful thoughts that went along these lines: “Why do I have to sleep on that side of the bed? Who left all this stuff all over the floor? How long am I going to put up with this?” Even in my mostly-asleep state, I realized that my thoughts were negative and unhelpful. Even worse, I discerned that I was directing most of my resentment in anger towards my wife, who conveniently sleeps on the side of the bed nearest the bathroom. I was only thinking about myself, and the thought of someone else having it better than me caused my old sin nature to boil up with indignation. With that realization, I received the opportunity to change my thinking and replace it with gratefulness.
I deliberately choose to think of how grateful I was that I had a bathroom in my home and that I didn’t have to stumble out of doors to find an outhouse like many did in the past and still do today. I thought of how thankful I am that my wife doesn’t have to trip over all the things that I usually leave on the floor of our room, especially in her (currently) pregnant state. I continued to replace my earlier negative thoughts with those of gratefulness for my wife, for her kind smile, for all she does for me throughout the day without complaining, and all the resentment and misguided anger towards her faded quickly. When I woke up this morning, the joy of my victory over negative and hurtful thoughts was still fresh. This experience stuck with me as I stepped into my day, purposing to put this little principle into practice.
When you catch yourself thinking negative (angry, resentful, hurtful, complaining) thoughts, ask God for the grace to replace them with gratitude to Him and to others!