Taking time to absorb and enjoy the good in our lives can bring us a deep sense of gratitude and healing. When we make an effort to habitually relish any positive experience we encounter, whether big or small, we gradually overcome the negativity bias in our brains that makes us focus more on any unfavorable aspect or problem in everyday life.
Since our thoughts determine how we feel and how we act, we do ourselves a disservice by getting ensnared in the vortex of negative thoughts. We end up spending more time ruminating over a negative experience while glossing over the positive, making our lives miserable and unhappy in the process.
To counter this natural tendency, psychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D. recommends that we take time to savor the good in our lives, whether big or small, past or present. Many times, we simply take for granted or dismiss any positive facts or experiences in our daily living.
But if we take a moment to recognize and focus on the good that is happening in our lives – whether it be a delicious cup of coffee, heartwarming words of appreciation, or a hard-earned victory at a tournament – if we stay with the positive experience or memory for at least 10 to 20 seconds, then Dr. Hanson says that we will eventually rewire our brains by weakening the neurons forged by negative thoughts and strengthening neural pathways activated by positive thoughts.
That is no small matter given the spiritual warfare of the mind that the enemy wages against us! According to Catholic theologian and author, Dan Burke, spiritual warfare is primarily a war in the mind. The mind is the battleground where the enemy seeds negative thoughts. When we regularly invoke the aid of the Holy Spirit, however, He protects us from these hidden assaults and transforms our minds with divine grace and inspiration. With help from the Holy Spirit, one way we can refresh our battle-weary souls and enlighten our besieged minds is by deeply tuning into the positive facts and experiences of our lives.
When we take the time to reminisce fond memories by looking at photo albums, reading diary entries or listening to music that evokes the good times, or when we notice a grace or privilege that we normally take for granted, like having the gift of a beloved spouse to wake up next to in the morning or family to rely on in times of need or the blessings of a good-paying job, when we allow these benefits to sink in and fill us up with joy and gratitude, then as Dr. Hanson asserts, the positive emotions we experience will “soothe old places of hurt, fill in old holes of loss or yearning” and lead to the renewal of our minds and the healing of our emotions.
Fr. Peter Knott, S.J. likewise noted: “Maturity is attained when gratitude begins to overcome life’s hurts.”
Mark Twain instinctively practiced this nourishing habit when he said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
Dr. Honey Carandang, my graduate school Psychology professor even recommended that we read through our best school papers to feel good about ourselves whenever we feel down — because it is healing! For this reason, I’ve always kept my best papers in a special place to access for little pick-me-ups.
With Thanksgiving upon us, let ask God to help us harness the power of our blessings to bring us peace of mind and emotional restoration. There’s a wellspring of healing waiting to be tapped and treasured in our accomplishments, our memories and our works of service.
Let us set aside some time to drink in the gift of each blessing in our lives — perhaps during prayer time or Adoration. In doing so, we will encounter God’s tender love shining through these gifts, and we can then offer Him our heartfelt thanks, recognizing that all good comes to us through His infinite mercy.
As St. Gianna Beretta Molla said, “The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.”