The power of shifting your attention from what’s wrong to what’s right
Posted in , Oct 21, 2021
It had been coming for months. I was in a strange, dark place. For the first time in my life, I was depressed. Not merely sad, but depressed. Clinically, it turned out.
It seemed to last forever, but it didn’t. God eventually lifted me out of depression; it was an answer to prayer as well as the fruit of weekly sessions with a good counselor. And some overdue changes in diet and exercise, as well as an adrenal fatigue supplement. But I’m convinced the biggest contributor to my recovery was prayer.
God is my salvation from depression, and prayer was a daily means of grace to me. I honestly can’t recall if my counselor suggested it or if I came up with the idea. It was probably me; let’s go with that. But at some point in my battle with depression, I determined never to lay my head on my pillow for the night without recording in my daily journal at least three prayers of thanks.
Sometimes I gave thanks for simple things: “for the hummingbird I watched just moments ago and for the sparrow that nearly sat on my lap. Thank You for the beauty and functionality of Your creation.”
Sometimes (just across the page from that last prayer) I wrote out thanks on special occasions: “THANK YOU! for my wife of 31 years, and this day on which we celebrate our anniversary. Thank You for all You’ve given me through her, all You’ve taught me through her, all the ways You’ve changed me through her and all the blessings that are mine because of her, chief among them being, of course, herself.”
And some were for fairly ordinary blessings: “for a day of health and work and time with family” or “Thank You that I get to sleep in comfort tonight.”
Day by day, however, by giving thanks for just three things—and many days, of course, I exceeded the minimum I had set for myself—I found my focus shifting from all the things that seemed to be wrong in my life to the many more things that were right and good and even wonderful.
I want to be careful not to minimize the reality and seriousness of depression. It can be debilitating and even life-threatening, and I’m not suggesting that “cheer up” is a meaningful prescription for overcoming it. Remember, my recovery included counseling, diet, exercise and more. But I believe nonetheless that prayers of gratitude were tremendously influential in overcoming my depression.
In my life, gratitude has been both vaccine and antidote to depression, discouragement, bitterness and resentment. Maybe it can help someone else too.