Practice, practice, practice. Coaches, piano teachers, dance instructors and parents consistently emphasize the need to practice the skill, in order to improve. Shoot the baskets, hit the ball, run the scales, spot the turn, straighten the lines. "Practice makes perfect" is one of the oldest of our wise sayings, for a reason.
It's true. You must work at something...anything...in order to become masterful.
A mom friend of mine, who has her own blog, has taken this sentiment to heart. Each week, she posts her "Practicing Thankfulness" list. Numerically, since she began doing this in January, she's up to 406. That's 406 different things for which she is thankful. And, indeed, the lists are getting better and better. Her practice of taking time to write down her thankful list is helping her become adept at seeing things. She's better at recognizing the blessings and better at describing the moments.
Not suprisingly, her skill for being thankful is improving. Exercising those thankful-brain-muscles is making those muscles stronger. Practice may not make perfect, but it's certainly making my friend more joyful and more aware of the good in her life.
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I like the idea. It's often easy to see the bad, to worry about the problems and to commiserate about the depressing news. It takes more effort to highlight the good things, even when they are plentiful.
Starting now, here's my own "workout" for the week:
1. air conditioning that works
2. strong-willed kids who want their opinions to be heard by their parents
3. homemade chocolate brownies with frosting
4. energetic, generous grandparents
5. a two-week-old perfect baby niece
6. coworkers who make me laugh
7. an invitation to see a movie
8. Starbucks gift cards
9. a first grader who is looking forward to starting school
10. neighborhood big kids who play baseball with my little kid
11. my daughter's belly laugh
12. quiet time to read my book at the end of the day
I'll keep practicing.