I love the hymn, Count Your Blessings, by Johnson Oatman, Jr. His hymn reminds us to forget our trials by thinking about the good in our lives. This sage advice is extremely important for our mental and physical well-being. Why do we think about and linger on the bad things?
The sun is shining; no chance of rain and the picnic basket is filled with your favorites. The children, excited and eager, watch out the window for the turn-off to the afternoon activities. If asked how your day was going, you’d respond, “It’s perfect.”
Traffic is tight and a car nearly cuts you off forcing you to the shoulder. A few choice words, directed at the driver, may pass your lips. If asked how your day was going, you’d respond, “terrible!” How did that one adverse action override the good — an outing with your family, sunshine and your favorite picnic foods?
Roy F. Baumeister, in his research article, Bad is Stronger than Good, demonstrated negative incidents cancelled positive events to the point one’s day, or even week, could be ruined. Shelly L. Gable, in her article, What (and Why) Is Positive Psychology?, proved this true even when a person’s life has three-times more positive experiences. How can we end the effects of the negative events?
Share the happiness
A friend told me the following story. His son, David, had control of the soccer ball and was headed for the goal. Immediately after his successful goal, David looked through the crowd. When he’d found his parents, David’s face lit up and he lifted his arms in excitement over his accomplishment. I could see the joy of the goal was still in our friend’s eyes as he retold the story. My friend then said, “Joy is greatest when shared,” and he admonished us to, “share your joy with your children.” How many times do we really look for someone to share our happiness?
Be willing to share positive experiences with those that are close to you. Don’t fall into the trap and think you are boasting (unless you are) or that your luck will run out if you share. Nothing could be further from the truth. The study, A boost of positive affect: The perks of sharing positive experiences, conducted by Nathaniel Lambert and colleagues of Brigham Young University, says, “our findings suggest that positive affect, happiness, and life satisfaction reach a peak only when participants share their positive experiences and when the relationship partner provides an active-constructive response." This proves when you share the happiness you keep the positive effects around a lot longer.
Oatman’s hymn reminds us, “When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,” to, “count your blessings; name them one by one.” Break the habit of allowing even one negative thought, incident or experience to override the good by thinking about the positive things in your life.
A new habit can take anywhere from 21 days to over two months to form. I saw this during the 1990s and early 2000s when we hosted exchange students. They usually arrived in August and, most of the time, their English was good, but they required us to slow our speech and wait for their responses. We soon realized their brains were translating each word into their language so they could understand what we were saying. The reverse happened when they spoke to us. Since they experienced the English language by immersion, most of them were speaking and dreaming in English by October. We even had one who took a trip, late in October, and had difficulty speaking fluently to others from his country in their own language. He had formed an English habit.
Instead of seeing the negative in your situations, start a new habit and think about the positive.
Turn around the negative
A storm circled around the town of Phoenix, New York all night long. The weather personnel compared the rain to that of a sprinkler being held in place. Most of the town flooded. Grandpa lived on the Oneida River, so flooding wasn’t a problem, but a lightning bolt hit his hickory tree. Fishing was good the day after and I caught a Northern Pike. Grandpa had us gather the wood pieces. He made a fire and cooked the best hamburgers, fish and corn on the cob we’d had in a long time. I often remember how Grandpa took that awful night’s event and turned it into a fun event for his family. Even now, I feel the happiness I felt so long ago.
Think about, or write down the things you are grateful for, and share your happiness with family and friends. When a friend or family member is sharing with you, listen and feel the joy they’re sending your way. Soon all involved will forget their trials and the negative will fall away as you remember Oatman’s promise, “Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, And you will keep singing as the days go by.”