I used to hate it when people said “count your blessings”, because to me it just sounded like “Stop complaining! You should feel grateful for what you have!”
In other words it sounded like a way of delegitimising my grievances, telling me how to feel, and implicitly judging me for not being happier.
But recently I’ve learned that counting my blessings is actually a powerful way of shifting my focus from things that aren’t going right, to things that are.
An extraordinary number of things in my life are going right for me, in the sense that I am better off with these things than I would be without them.
I don’t usually feel appreciation for my couch, for example. It’s easy to see the holes in the upholstery and the wear and tear of it. And there’s nothing especially unique or memorable about it.
But if I didn’t have a couch, I’d be worse off. So in owning this couch, things are going right for me.
Cold hard Appreciation
This isn’t exactly a Hallmark gratitude moment. I’m objectively appreciating the couch even if I don’t subjectively feel great love for it at this moment.
It’s more like I’m grudgingly forced to admit this couch is a boon to me.
And that’s what makes all of this counting of blessings so worthwhile….and so confronting. Because it’s dawned on me that with so many things going well for me, I’ve nonetheless been studiously focused on things that aren’t.
And over time that’s become a practiced attitude that leaves me with a lot of negative feelings about my life.
The truth is that counting my blessings really does reveal that my complaints are, if not unwarranted, then at least self-inflicted.
I’ve discovered that I have some bitter, critical, and negative habits of thought, and that I really would be a happier person if I spent more time counting my blessings.
And the part that makes me most uncomfortable about this is that I’m painfully reluctant to do it.
Despite being an adult and a parent, I’m not different from a little kid who would rather sulk than join the party. And I’ve gotten pretty good at telling myself the party isn’t worth joining in the first place.
I could be a lot happier…if I wanted to be. The only obstacle is my resistance, the conditions I’ve set on happiness.
I’ll be happy when I’m rich. I’ll be happy when others acknowledge my success. I’ll be happy when I feel vindicated for past conflicts.
But in the end the only one who suffers from my reluctance to be happy is me. And I don’t think it’s worth it any more.
So I’m going to keep counting my blessings. I’m going to push past my own reluctance and keep finding and paying attention to the many things that are going right for me on all levels of my experience.