Our brains are amazing creations. They are literally wired to filter the unimportant and focus on the important. How does your brain know what is important or not important? By what you pay attention to. It is called the Reticular Activating System or RAS for short. For example, if purchase a new car, your brain knows that this car that you just shopped for and purchased is important to you. Suddenly, you see your car everywhere you go. Before then, you rarely saw that make and model anywhere. Facebook ads do the same thing. If you google something, you will start noticing ads specifically about the item you searched for. With the internet, it can be creepy … but with our brains, it shows the creativity of our amazing Creator. He has literally given us the brain power to filter out the unimportant stuff of life and see only what really matters to us.
What if you could create a more grateful life by focusing your attention on things you are grateful for? You guessed it, that is exactly what we can do. The more we practice gratitude, the more our brains seek to find it. In fact, even in difficult circumstances, we can find things to be grateful for because we have trained our brains. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Paul tells us we ought to be grateful in all circumstances. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” Giving thanks in difficult situations is one of the hardest things about living a life of gratitude but if we have practiced gratitude in the good times … it will flow out of our lives in the hard parts. Gratefulness becomes who we are, not just something we are trying to be.
Even during COVID-19, we can focus on so many little things that we are grateful for. One way to train your brain to be grateful is praying grateful prayers. Just as Paul reminded the church at Philippi in Philippians 4:6-7, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
On this journey, there are many around us wondering how we can be so grateful when things around us seem so bad. We know the truth … gratitude is not based on good circumstances; gratitude is based on a good God. Circumstances change every day of our lives, but God doesn’t! The God who was with you in the good times is the same loving, caring, merciful, all-powerful God in your bad times! Focus on His goodness as you practice gratitude. Before you know it, your brain will find ways to be grateful without you working at it.
This Week: I have three challenges for you this week to train your brain to focus on gratitude:
1. Think of someone who has influenced you for good and contact them to let them know.
2. Start a gratitude journal.
3. Find three things you can be grateful for at the end of each day and ask yourself why you are grateful.