*according to research!
A year ago last weekend (August bank holiday weekend) I was on our Church “Camp”. We go to a place in West Sussex where you either sleep in family sized dormitories indoors or bring a tent or caravan and sleep under the stars. I had been challenged a few weeks previously about being deliberately thankful and coming up with 3 things each and every day that I was grateful for and saying Thank you to God. And a year ago at camp I lead an all-age worship session on the concept of 3 Good Things and I wrote a blog post about how I wanted to be intentionally grateful daily. You can read about that here.
So we are now just over a year later and I recently asked my Facebook friends and fellow Tweeters if they had any comments to make or stories to tell about how they had experienced 3 Good Things. And got quite a response! So, firstly my own reflections and then theirs.
This year has been mixed as they often are. And there have been good and bad days: days when the 3 Good Things have been hard to decide on with plenty to choose from; days when finding only 3 has been blessings in and of itself!
Appropriately, there are three things I have really noticed that have made this year different or perhaps have made me look at things differently this year. The first is that I have remembered more about what has happened on a day-to-day basis because of the 3 Good Things: it has acted like a summary of each day. And because I’ve posted them online I can look back at them (although when I try that with FB timeline, statuses seem to disappear after a while!). I started out using the site HappyRambles.com but got a bit tired of repeating myself. Now I’ve noticed that the FB statuses and tweets aren’t easily accessible I might go back to this.
The second thing is something I really noticed whilst discussing 3 Good Things with a friend. It’s a bit like smiling! We know that smiling is good for us; that smiling is contagious; that it’s easier to smile than to frown. Have you found that forcing a smile makes you happy? I have, even when my kids have driven me too distraction all day and I’m in a grumpy mood, if I force myself to smile at them it somehow (scientists tell us it’s all about the endorphins!) makes all the difference in the world and I relax, making me a lot less stressed! In the very same way I have found that on those days where kids are under feet, I’m snappy with them and my husband, or on those days where something really awful happens, when I go to write my 3 Good Things I find that in deciding to be grateful I become grateful. In remembering that whatever I’m going through, or feeling like, I have a massive amount to be grateful for.
Doing the research for this post I was lead to this article (with huge thanks to Alice Buckley, @alicecrumbs, for invaluable help at just the right moment!) which shows a definite link between gratitude and good health through sleep. In the study carried out, those who had a positively grateful attitude slept better than others and sleep is a well-known indicator of overall health. It’s a really fascinating field of research and not only do I recommend you look further, but I shall probably spend most of the rest of my morning reading more as well!
Of course being a Christian I believe that I am called to be a positive person, whose overall attitude is one of intentional thankfulness. The Psalms are littered with promises to be thankful, and exhortations to ‘Give thanks to the Lord…’ My two favourite verses in the New Testament about thankfulness are Colossians 4 v 2 ‘Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.’ My experience of devoting myself to prayer has shown that actually being watchful, for those who are in need, for situations that need prayer, and being thankful for all manner of things around you, comes very naturally in prayer. Then there’s 1 Thess 5 v 16-18 in which Paul tells us ‘Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ This could not be clearer: be a thankful people, because God wants you to be. It would be easy to slide into a kind of glib thankfulness; the kind that doesn’t take much effort in our souls; the kind that gives sense of almost denial of the things that life throws at us. This kind of gratitude is worse than useless, and indeed we know that denial can be very harmful.
There have been a number of discussions around being ‘yourself’ online and this is the third thing highlighted by this exercise. Not all my Twitter followers or Facebook friends are Christian and the temptation has been to pretend that all is well and that the life of a Christian is trouble-free but events of this year show this to be utterly false (a traumatic hospital visit in December; the death of a very special lady in February; a close-shave with burn-out in June to give a few examples). Instead I have been deliberately open, acknowledging when the day has been less than good; and recognising that in amongst trauma, deep sadness and utter exhaustion God is still there and still good.
So, for me 3 Good Things has been a seemingly simple way to be deliberate about focussing on the good things in day-to-day life in order to live a different, Biblical way and hopefully point people to God, giver of all good things. In doing it I am also recording my day-to-day life; I am reminded to be humbly thankful despite how I might feel; and I am, in this small way, doing what God wants me to do.
Throughout the year so far I have had numerous conversations, over Twitter, on Facebook and face to face, about how people have enjoyed reading 3 Good Things. One friend did a Secondary School assembly based on the idea and another (whose comment is below) has used it with their youth group. So I’ve included some comments below. Please feel free to add your own in the comments section!
Lynda I love them Jenni. i haven’t kept up with it all the time by a long way but you have made me think. Along with my lovely friend Angela who has such a lovely positive outlook you have challenged me this last year – both of you. I am trying to learn to look for things to thank God for now! Thank you.
Sue Jenni I Have enjoyed reading your 3 good things a day and I have been encouraged blessed and challenged many times sooooooo please continue x x
Jean keep them coming Jenni – forgive those of us who are slacking ! Got all the washing dry and ironed, that must count as 2 and then got taken out for evening meal ! xx
Susannah I like them but I always want to encourage the people who post their good things as a comment on your status to make them THEIR status instead!! Does that make sense?!?
Hannah I love reading your 3good things jenni as even when things are tough u manage to pull at least 3out the bag – the basics that we so easily take for granted – an inspiration to anyone that reads them!!! X x x
Frances I love them too, and they often feature in our house group discussions 330miles north! 2 of our young people started doing them for a bit but unfortunately dont have your staying power x
Lucy i really like it, knowing ur ok. X
Julia 3 good things about your 3 things: 1. Lots of great recipe ideas, in fact I got a killer choc chip cookie recipe from you as a result of one of your 3 things. 2. I really enjoy reading about how much you enjoy the seaside, I miss the sea! 3. It inspired me to do my own three things
Flossie I love your 3 good things. It inspires me to think about what is good in my life even when things are not going well. I must take note of Susannah’s post and make them my status instead of just commenting. Maybe it will spread more joy amongst my friends xx
Chris What a year it’s been for you! Even when things haven’t been easy and we’ve been asked to pray for you, you’ve been able to count your blessings . I was thinking just the other day about doing the same thing – didn’t get any further than the mere thought but feel challenged – maybe not on fb tho’. Thank you for sharing your blessings – you are a blessing indeed. x
Joanne I love hearing your 3 good things…very nice to read at the end of the day or first thing the next morning…like the idea of positive thinking and even when the day has not been the best coming up with 3 things that are good
Sarah A year wow! You have been an inspiration, knowing what a rubbish year you have had but you have still found 3 good things every day is amazing. As you know I have started this and did slack for a bit where I struggled to do it every day but I have now managed it every day for months now. Sometimes they do seem trivial, sometimes I really have to rack my brain to come up with the 3rd (& sometimes 2 & 3!) then some days its very easy. I have friends that do their 3 things once a week and others then tag onto mine occasionally. Its good, makes you think, makes you thankful and realise how blessed we truly are.
Sue The bible tells us to ‘give thanks continually’ – you’ve been doing it!
21 August at 20:31 · Like
Rosemary I love your 3 good things statuses – you are such an inspiration to us all and have really made everybody think about being thankful for the many blessings we have daily tiny and huge
21 August at 20:49 · Like
Shirley So easy to take things for granted Jenni. Your posts have encouraged me to see the good things rather than the negative each day. Need to keep working on this! Bless you Jenni xxxx
22 August at 13:58 · Like
Are you challenged to try #3goodthings?