Showing posts with label Count Your Blessings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Count Your Blessings. Show all posts

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Three Good Things

I’m dealing with a rather long period of depression. I wrote about it at Real Intent a while ago.

I believed at the time that part of my depression was physically induced: I was suffering from significant anemia and had been for months. A recent blood test reveals that for now my anemia is under control (good news), but I’m still feeling the effects of the depression (not such good news).

At the urging of my wife, my sister and others who are close to me, I’ve been seeing a therapist for a while, and those visits are illuminating. I’ve had one conversation with my doctor about possible medication, and while he is willing, he agrees with me that it’s prudent to pursue therapy first, especially since my depression is not keeping me from going to work and going about my life.

I’m not new to the concept of depression. I have members of my own family who have battled significant and persistent depression with a combination of therapy and medication and to differing degrees of success.  And I have had periods of persistent depression before, though none have lasted as long as this one.  It’s a tough road since one of the features of the condition is that it inhibits seeking help. While a person with a toothache won’t like going to the dentist, eventually the pain of the toothache is greater than the pain of resolving it, and the person heads to the dentist for relief. A person with depression, on the other hand, may feel like a blanket is over his head, and no matter what he tries, he can’t get that blanket off. As long as the blanket is in place, it’s hard to do anything, let alone get help in removing the blanket. Often it requires someone else’s observing, “Hey, you have a blanket on top of you!” for the person to realize that it is even there. In its most extreme and dangerous incantations, depression can lead a person to extremely unhealthy behavior in an effort to self-medicate or end the suffering.

I was chatting about all of this with a management coach I know. The coach is a PhD psychologist who works as a consultant helping executives to improve their communication and leadership styles. He also conducts a variety of workshops on his farm in Vermont. As we talked, he mentioned he was preparing to conduct a well-being workshop in the coming weekend, so he had lots of references at the top of mind.

We talked about the research that has shown that although medication can be helpful in severe cases of depression, its benefit is much less apparent in mild cases (I believe mine is a mild case). He agreed it was good I’m seeing a therapist and that I’ve been talking with my doctor. He recommended I try one more thing: the Three Good Things exercise.

The exercise grows out of the positive psychology movement, championed by Martin Seligman and others. (An overview of that movement, though somewhat dated, is available here.)

The exercise: at the end of each day, list three good things that happened and why they happened.

The research suggests that this simple exercise makes a difference. These charts are from the cited article. The first shows improvement in happiness over time (compared with a placebo exercise of reflecting on early life experiences), and the second shows a sustained reduction in depressive symptoms over time.

As my friend told me about the exercise, I immediate knew it would help, because we’ve used it (unwittingly) before. When our family moved overseas a number of years ago, our two youngest children were really struggling with the adjustment. After listening to a litany of complaints every day for weeks, my wife finally asked each of the children at night just as they were going to bed to list a few good things that happened that day. We wrote them down in a little notebook just before the kids said their prayers. Within a few weeks, their attitudes about living in our new home had changed; they naturally offered up good and bad things from their school days, and life was much more normal.

Of course, the gospel reinforces this process as well, as we are regularly reminded to be grateful for the tender mercies in our lives, to recognize the hand of the Lord in what we do, to ponder how merciful God has been, to count our blessings.

So, I’m counting. At least three a day. In a few weeks I’ll let you know how it’s going.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful Turkeys

In our lesson in yesterday’s HP group, this quotation from George Albert Smith struck me:

I don’t know of any man in all the world who has more reason to be grateful than I.

What a great way to start Thanksgiving Week!

It’s been a very stressful few weeks for me, and frankly gratitude has not been at the top of my list. Even so, I know what season it is, and I know in my head I need to count my blessings. There was a great post on blessing counting at Real Intent (see it here) in which Montserrat reminds us of the value of counting, and the value of blessings. She refers to President Eyring’s gratitude journal and the value of that daily record of blessings not only to him, but to his family, as well.

She says, simply,

When we count our blessings our focus changes from what we don’t have to what we do.

How cool is that?

When we moved to Taiwan a number of years ago, the change was tough on our kids who still lived with us at home. New country. New school. New church environment. And on and on. It was easy for the kids to complain. My lovely wife had the great idea that they should list five good things from the day before they went to sleep each night. Over time, that exercise had a terrific effect, helping our kids change their attitude and to look for the good in our new adventure.

In our home, we have a Thankful Turkey – not the eating kind, but definitely the stuffing kind. It’s a cardboard box with a paper turkey head and paper turkey feathers. There’s a slit in the top and a stack of papers nearby. Family members throughout the month of November are to list things they’re thankful for and stuff the turkey with them. At Thanksgiving dinner, we open the box and read them. We also keep the slips from prior years and read a few of those, too.

So, it’s pretty simple to count to five. And it’s pretty simple to list five good things from a day. And doing so does shift our focus from what we don’t have to what we do. What is stopping me from doing it? Perhaps the easiness of the way, like those Israelites who wouldn’t look at the serpent on Moses’ staff. Well, today I’m looking:

1. Continuing employment, even when it is stressful
2. A loving and supportive wife and family
3. My children’s success in their very many endeavors, from education to employment
4. The peace that comes from studying the scriptures, and the witness of their truth
5. My ability and opportunity to face each new day
How about you?

The Thankful Turkey Box photo and directions for making one can be found here at Family Fun Crafts.
BTW, check out my latest post at Real Intent, "The Power of Memory," here.