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Every night before I go to bed, I write down three things I am thankful for that day. This is something I have done for a number of years now. I have an entry on my Notes app dedicated to this practice for easy access: T2BT4 (Things To Be Thankful For).

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.
Henri Nouwen

As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, my mind can often wander to some pretty bad places. Or, when I’m in a good place, the oppressive storm cloud of sadness will sometimes find its way to me and settle on my shoulders. In these dark and lonely deserts, it’s so easy for me to listen to the lies in my head, or to focus on the things I don’t have, or to be consumed by all the things going wrong (or that could go wrong).

Do they really love me? If they loved me, they would spend more time with me. I’m not sure why anyone would even love me.

I don’t see the point in even trying. Nothing I do seems to matter anyway.

I’m going to feel this way forever.

Forcing myself to find three good things about my day has been an important habit for me to cultivate. It helps me focus not only on what is good, but also on what is true. It often pulls me out of the cloud of my own self-pity and -- even if just for a few moments -- shines a light onto some good things that are close at hand. No matter how terrible the day, I must find three things to be thankful for. Even if it’s as simple as “I made it through today” or “I can go to bed now.”

Let me make something clear. I am in no way saying that writing a daily gratitude journal is a cure-all for depression or anxiety. Rather, I am advocating that it is one small prong in a multifaceted approach that we can try. In my own journey with depression, I’ve used many resources (prayer, journalling, professional counseling, medication) and I encourage you to use all the resources at your disposal until you find what works. But keeping a T2BT4 list is a small step, one that requires little effort, but can have incredibly positive results over a period of time.

Sometimes, the gloomy cloud of depression rolls in. But other times, I’ve noticed that what’s bringing me down is my lack of perspective. There have been long stretches where I didn’t keep a T2BT4 list, and I start to feel the difference. And so I return to this habit because it helps my perspective. I can also look back on the lists from months or years ago, and I can try to reorient myself to the truth. That I am loved. That God is good, and that there is evidence of His goodness all around.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father... (James 1:17)
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good... (Psalm 100:4)

Maybe you don’t struggle with anxiety or depression as much as I do. Maybe you just find yourself in a constant, low-grade dissatisfaction with everything. Or maybe your life has no margins and you don’t make the time to notice and appreciate the small gifts present in each day. But the Lord’s goodness shines all around us, in each moment of every day. Will we notice it? Can we take even just a small moment to be thankful for it?

T2BT4 Friday May 3 2019

  • Sitting at the beach with Hosea, enjoying the sand and looking at the waves.
  • Discovering that my car was parked in the street cleaning zone on our way back from the beach, with 10 minutes to spare! If we didn’t go to the beach, I would have been ticketed!
  • Chocolate cupcakes!