“With every rising of the sun, think of your life as just begun.” -Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Do you ever want to hit the “reset” button on your life, habits, relationships, job? Do you believe that if you could start over again that you would do things differently?
In Genesis, God created separation between days, weeks, months, and years. Genesis 1: 3-5 says, “And God said, ‘Let there be light’. and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day’ and the darkness he called ‘night’ “(New International Version). According to the Bible, creating a difference between night and day (and subsequently days and weeks) is the first thing God did after creating the heavens and the earth.
Therefore, if every day, week, month, and year is separated from the one preceding it, we are constantly given a chance for a new beginning or fresh start. As we enter into 2015, many people see the new year as an opportunity to start fresh with resolutions. People often make promises to better their health, relationships, finances, career, etc; However, God says that we have a chance to start new every day. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (New International Version). What beautiful grace God displays by giving us a chance to have a new start each day. With each sunrise, we are given a fresh opportunity to live God’s way. His grace is always there for us, but I like the visual expression of a sunrise and sunset to show the sunrise of our new chance each day.
Sometimes life forces us to start over at unexpected times. We may have an “out-of-nowhere” job loss or relational breakup. We are left to pick up the pieces & start over when an event occurs we did not choose. Andy Stanley’s Series “Starting Over” was excellent to describe what to do when it all falls apart (http://startingoverseries.org). Andy talks about the three exercises to complete when starting over: 1) Own it, 2) Rethink it, and 3) Release It.
Owning it means to own your share/part of why the situation went wrong. Even if you feel like the situation was not your fault, there is always a piece of the fault pie that belongs to you. In Andy’s sermon, he asked us to draw a slice of the pie that represented our part in why a situation went wrong and we are forced to start over. Owning your part of why a situation went wrong helps you gain clarity and learn from it (www.startingoverseries.org).
Rethinking it means to ask yourself what you were thinking during the situation that went wrong. If we think the way we used to, we will do the same things. Be able to answer the question ‘What was I thinking?” (www.startingoverseries.org).
Releasing it means that even though other people may be to blame in your situation, you have a responsibility. You must decide to forgive and release the fault others created in your situation (www.startingoverseries.org). Andy told us to ask the question “How long do you plan to allow the people who mistreated you to influence your future?”
Each new day is an opportunity to start over — We don’t have to wait until January 1st of each new year to change. Sometimes life events give us no choice but to start over again, usually at unexpected times. Each circumstance that falls apart is an opportunity to begin again. We have the chance each day to hit the “reset” button and do things better the next time. It takes a little reflection and “owning the situation”…but starting over can be a great thing!
What do you think of when you imagine Thanksgiving Holiday? Family and friends gathered around a crackling fire? An image of “the perfect family” eating a fabulous feast together, while laughing with one another? The Publix commercial image of happiness at the holidays? We all have expectations about what the holidays should be like built up by social media, retail stores, the entertainment industry, etc., causing us to expect some magical holiday season. When we arrive for Thanksgiving and it isn’t the “perfect” day and everyone doesn’t “get along perfectly”, we are disappointed. Our holiday expectations are unmet, and this, along with other factors, can lead to depression. Many benefits arise from ridding ourselves of unrealistic expectations…and getting to the true meaning of the holiday. Let’s start with Thanksgiving….
It is important for us to reflect on the idea of thankfulness.
Thankfulness is “feeling or expressing gratitude; being appreciative” (dictionary.com). As a therapist, I have seen many benefits of practicing gratitude and have witnessed its role in the treatment of depression. Practicing thankfulness is a beneficial antidote in the treatment of depression; similar to the widely known treatments such as medication and/or psychotherapy.
When a person is struggling with depression, his thought life is typically distorted and negative. One of the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder is the presence of suicidal thoughts. Distorted thinking, a client having more negative than positive thoughts, suicidal thinking, and irrational thinking are all symptoms of a person who is dealing with depression. This is why Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is used to treat depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors. During the course of treatment, people learn how to identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on their behavior (psychology.about.com). Our thoughts lead to our feelings which lead to our behaviors (thoughts –> feelings–> behaviors). If we are stuck in a cycle of negative thinking, we will feel sad, and then we will act depressed. However, thankfulness allows us to change our negative thinking into positive thinking, thus fighting depression. For example, a person may have the thought “I am so frustrated that my car keeps having to go to the shop”. This thought makes a person feel upset which then makes them behave in ways an upset person would (moping/feeling sorry for themselves/isolating self). However, if thankfulness is added and the person thinks “I am so thankful I even have a car“. This thought makes the person feel joy, enabling the person to behave in ways a joyful person would (engaging with others. higher energy levels). Thankfulness has a big role in combating negative thinking, which treats depression.
A specific exercise used by therapists to fight depression is called “thanking your mind”. Your mind offers you many thoughts in an effort to protect you–trying to get you to judge whats good or bad for you, predict dangerous possibilities, etc. Your mind is working to help you survive and overcome problems. However, your mind can run wild and obsessively focus on thoughts that make you miserable (McKay, Davis, & Fanning, 2011, p. 132). One way to deal with these thoughts is to thank your mind for its efforts to protect you. As each negative thought shows up, simply say, “Thank you mind, for that thought”. This helps you to just appreciate that your mind gave you a thought to protect you, but helps you not to dwell on negative thoughts (McKay et. al, 2011, p. 132).
As a Christian, God’s word tells us to be thankful. Phil 4: 6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends understanding, will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus” (New International Version). Thankfulness creates a form of tranquility, or peace of mind. We cannot have two separate thoughts at the same time: it is difficult to worry and be thankful at the same time. We aren’t that smart! Colossians 3:15 says “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (New International Version). Can you see the connection between thankfulness and peace? The more thankful we are, the more God’s peace will rule our hearts and minds, combating depression and other forms of despair.
Johnson, S.L. (2004). Therapist’s guide to clinical intervention: The 1-2-3’s of treatment planning (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
McKay, M., Davis, M., & Fanning, P. (2011). Thoughts and feelings: Taking control of your moods and your life (4th ed.) Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.