About a year ago I added one simple, quick exercise into my good-night routine and I can honestly say that I am happier and feel more complete because of it. It all started when I heard a quote at church. Henry B. Eyring said, “…I would ponder this question: ‘Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?’ As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day.”
I went home and tried doing exactly that. Every night I try to find something specific to the day that I am grateful for that God has done for me. I took it a step further and also tried applying it to my husband. And these are the realizations I have made:
Finding Something Specific to Be Grateful for About My Family
Every night I try to think of something specific to thank my husband for before we go to sleep. Sometimes it gets hard and I have to be creative. But as I have tried to be creative, I have made an important discovery about praising and thanking others. Gratitude isn’t simply about being thankful for things others do, but also for who they are as a person.
What I mean by it is this: it is easy to say thank you for doing the dishes or to express gratitude for help rocking the baby to sleep. But on days when my husband and I hardly see each other or we weren’t our best selves I have started to express gratitude to him for things he simply is. For example, I’m thankful that he’s silly and brings smiles to my face (sometimes accompanied by eye-rolling). I’ve become thankful that he works hard and is ambitious. I am grateful for his gentleness. I have always known these things, but it is different when I consciously remember it at the end of the day and express gratitude to him. I love him more and I feel happier. The unimportant things fall away, and I focus on what matters most.
Be Grateful for Who They Are rather than Only What They Do
I have come to the conclusion that being grateful for being rather than doing is probably far more important. It’s nice to receive thanks when we offer a small act of service. But, it feels so much better when we receive thanks for being a supportive friend or a loving spouse or a hard worker. Praise that is about intrinsic traits rather than external things or acts is much more valuable in my opinion. It boosts our confidence and helps us know that we are making a difference to someone’s life.
Praising Traits in our Children
Although my child isn’t old enough to understand language in its entirety yet, I sometimes have started thanking her for her smiles or silly personality when we play baby games that we play together. The same warm effect comes over me and I find myself happier and less bothered by the unimportant things.
Of course I am far from perfect, but this praise is something I’m going to try to incorporate more and more into parenting. Praise is a core piece of numerous parenting programs. How great would it be that we not only thank our children for cleaning up their room and not back-talking, but also for who they are. Do we praise them enough for their creativity? Their kindness in including their younger siblings in play? Their sensitivity and their sweet spirit? Their ambition and fire in their spirit?
I know that sometimes it can be very difficult to focus on these things when somedays all we seem to hear are complaints and yelling. Some parenting programs tell parents to catch their children being good. I love that phrase. Everyone is good and does so much good. Sometimes we just have to change our focus from the negatives to the positives.
Being Grateful for a Higher Power
Of course, I also took the quote at face value and have made an effort to find something specific to be grateful for in my nightly prayers. I’m always grateful for things like family, but I have tried to be more specific in thanking God for something He blessed me with that day.
I love the example of Corrie Ten Boom. She was a woman living in Holland who headed an underground operation in Nazi occupied Holland to save Jews. She ended up going to a concentration camp and experiencing horrors that I can’t begin to fathom. However, she held fast to her faith in Christ. She found the hand of the Lord in her daily life, even in the dark times. She found things to be happy about, even when there was really nothing to be thankful for. She understood this concept of looking deeper than the surface to just be grateful. She found the good in her surroundings and consequently lived a life of hope and joy afterward as she found forgiveness for the Nazis.
Reading her story in The Hiding Place had a profound effect on me. I could not do what she did, but I can start small. I can try harder to keep my bedtime routine of finding the hand of the Lord (or higher power that day) and finding goodness in the lives of my loved ones. Sometimes this requires creativity and looking past the easily seen contributions. But, I have found that as I have done so I have been happier and felt more complete.
*The Hiding Place is an Amazon affiliate link.
Eyring, Henry B. (2007) O Remember, Remember Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/o-remember-remember?lang=eng