Choosing a Mindset of Gratitude: How counting your Blessings will change your Life
As you’ve probably read in the last article, we had some rain during our time in France.
In fact, after I had written the last article, it rained continuously for the whole remaining 10 days we were there – and after the one storm alert, level “orange”, a second one followed.
This is something that happens almost never in south of France.
In contrast, central Europe had beautiful, warm autumn weather – sunny, without any rain – like it happens almost never in central Europe.
However, I will be honest with you: My personal feeling, after all these days of continuing rain was:
“I didn’t sign up for that!“
In fact, I didn’t bring any rain boots with me, either for me or the kids, because: autumn in France is supposed to be filled with sunshine!
It was a daily new choice (waking up every morning, hearing the rain dropping on our tent again) to refuse discouragement, frustration and discontentment from settling in. It WAS a choice to be happy and grateful, to be this cheerful mom, ready to enter into all the adventures the new day would bring for me and my kids!
A few years back, I would have experienced such a situation with great discouragement.
I would have felt “left out”, “a victim of this rainy weather”, thinking that “such situations always happen to me” , that “these vacations would be ruined”….
Even with my behavior, I would have taught my kids that they are victims of such kind of situations, that challenges and unexpected situations can ruin their vacations, and that we don’t have a choice but to leave our frustrations and disappointments create a heavy ambiance, that will leave these vacations with a bitter after taste.
Coming back to that mentioned book from Caroline Leaf “Think, learn and succeed”, she reminds us how our mindset will determine how we experience what happens to us.
Many times, we can’t change the facts: In our situation, we simply had rain, no matter how hard we wanted sunshine!
This is not only true for that specific example:
We all experience challenges, problems and true hardships we didn’t “sign up” for.
We can try to be positive and convince ourselves that “the sun is behind the clouds” – but none the less, we feel the rain on our skin. We feel the humidity that penetrates our tent, leaving a humid impression on our whole surrounding. We know that, back in Switzerland, they have this perfect weather we are supposed to have here right now. These realities are facts; no matter how “positive” we try to be.
So what is the mindset that helps us deal with Situations we didn’t sign up for?
How can we go through disappointments, hardships and difficult situations without discouragement, frustration and discontentment taking over, leaving a bitter aftertaste of such situations?
In her book, Caroline Leaf talks about a mindset that shaped my life for several years. In fact, it was this specific mindset which helped me out of the sadness about my broken dreams, my mistakes and failures, and out of my attitude of being the victim of circumstances.
The understanding of this mindset was created on a day I was spending time with God while in Bolivia. I was whining to God about the many situations I was unhappy with, about my feelings of being left out and of my inadequacy.
At that moment, he talked into my heart:
Jeanne, look at you:
You are not the fruit of your own mistakes, failures and shortcomings.
You are the fruit of my love, my ability, my grace and my mercy.
This turned my reality away from me and my shortcomings and towards God and His faithfulness.
The situations around me didn’t change.
But my perspective did.
Gratefulness entered my heart, creating happiness and contentment and a cheerful spirit.
I never again wanted to let go of this attitude- or how Caroline leaf describes it- this mindset.
In fact, it kept me away from stagnated sadness and depression even in situations that turned out to be so different from what I imagined – like after the four C-Sections I had, even though I had wanted to give birth naturally in such a strong way.
But I chose to see my healthy child. I chose to see the medical blessing to have the possibility for a C-Section. I chose to be grateful for my own life.
Being grateful is a choice.
We decide what we want to look at. What thoughts we let define our emotions.
“When we choose to be grateful, we tap into our natural design. Research on the effects gratitude has on our biology shows how being thankful increases our longevity, our ability to use our imagination, and our ability to problem-solve. It also improves our overall health.” (…)
(…) “This is in stark contrast to the negative feedback loop that a lack of gratitude sets up from becoming whiny; feeling “hard done by” or always the victim; always blaming someone; and becoming envious, jealous, and resentful of others’ success” (…)
As Willie Nelson once said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”
This time again, I chose the mindset of gratitude.
I wasn’t really grateful for the rain, to be honest.
However, there were plenty of other things one could be grateful for, starting from our tent that was of such good quality and was not leaking, up to the fact that I was here with my four amazing kids, enjoying our time together!
At the end of our vacations, after I had packed up our stuff, I was starting our trip back home with prayer, thanking God for all his protection, for the beautiful time we were able to have as a family. I prayed for protection and my own concentration for our 8-hour drive home.
In the end, I asked my kids:
“would you like to say thanks to God for anything?”
Enthusiastically, they started to thank God for countless things I hadn’t even thought about:
“Thank you God for the rain – this way we had no mosquitos!”
“..that we had so much fun, splashing in the puddles!”
“ Thank you for all the cozy moments in the tent while the rain was pouring down”!
“ Thank you for the great fellowship we had with the other families who joined us!”
“ Thank you for the time we could spend in the cottage”.
“Thank you for the great trip to the aquarium!”
“ Thank you for the heavy winds when we could play “kite” with our wave boards!”
I was thrilled to see our kids being so enthusiastic and grateful about our vacations, despite the meteorological situation.
With a smile, I added to their prayer:
“And thank you God, because in the future we will be grateful for each day of sunshine, not taking it for granted anymore.”