Want to Fight Anxiety? Point Out the Positive!

Want to Fight Anxiety? Point Out the Positive! July 25, 2022

A smiley face plush doll

In the climate we’re living in right now (and I’m not even talking about the sweltering heat of the mid-summer South!), do you ever feel your anxiety rising when you turn on the news? Or open your social media account? Maybe you find yourself getting stressed by the latest inflation numbers as you scan your grocery bill or the cost of goods for your small business. Or perhaps you’re constantly on edge during family dinners or church barbeques, just hoping and praying that people won’t start getting into angry politics. 

So much is going on in our world that can make us anxious, on edge, angry or annoyed, right? And much of that is not “all in our minds”—it’s legitimately concerning.  

But you know what else is legitimate? The fact there are also so many beautiful things going on in our world—and in our own homes! And that needs to be “in our minds” as well!

As the cashier rings up our concerning grocery bill, there are also things we can look at that can cause us to be hopeful, happy, content, grateful, and full of joy. The happy toddlers sitting in the shopping cart—what a gift they are! The fact that we are going to load our groceries into a car and drive home—how many people would love to be able to do that. The gratitude for living in a country that may have its issues but it is peaceful and free.

This is not just a trite feel-good exercise. It is an absolutely essential way to take back the narrative of our anxious hearts and see the very real truths that we so often take for granted. 

For a bit more on how to do that, below is an excerpt from my latest devotional, Find Joy: A devotional journey to unshakable wonder in an uncertain world. I figured it was a good reminder to all of us that when we find ourselves caught in a cycle of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, maybe we can switch our perspective and start “pointing and calling” out all the good in our lives. 

And I’ll start right now by pointing at you, my readers, and tell you how grateful I am for you. You are a blessing to me and Jeff, and our entire team!

In James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, he talks about the Japanese railway system and its extraordinary “Point-and-Call” system. To an outside observer, it seems odd to hear the train operators pointing at a light and saying, “the signal is red” or at the clock and saying, “the time is 9:27.” But it has proven so effective that it has reduced errors by 85 percent. 

Because train operators are using their eyes, ears, mouth, and hands at the same time, they bring a heightened level of awareness to what could be a very monotonous and subconscious daily chore. By literally pointing and calling out what they see, they have prevented serious accidents in ways train operators have never been able to do before. 

I love this idea for those of us seeking wonder instead of monotony and joy instead of stress. We may not always do it out loud, but I can imagine us at work (“The printer is working today! Yay!”) or at the grocery store (“I’m thankful for that coffee right there!”), mentally pointing at things that we often take for granted. Because if you think about it, those “taken for granted” things are actually great, great gifts in our lives. 

Consider pointing at your spouse (“My husband gives the best hugs!”) or at your church (“I’m so grateful for this community of believers!”). Point at yourself (“This body was able to wake up today to please God and make Him known!). Can you picture yourself filling your joy tank as you get in the wonderful habit of pointing out things that you are grateful for?

We so often slide into doing the exact opposite, don’t we? It is so easy to subconsciously—or even verbally—point out things that are not life-giving. What do you think happens when we point and call out the disobedient child? And then ourselves for seemingly failing at this motherhood gig? Or the husband or friend who hurt your feelings with that insensitive comment? Or the fact that it’s raining and you can’t afford to fix the leaky roof?

Yes, in this life, there is trouble. But there are also gifts. If we don’t try to counter our subconscious bent toward discontent, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. God gives us good, good gifts, and it’s up to us to see them. Let’s be intentional about noticing the gifts God has put in our path. 

Even in difficulty, daily joy is ours for the taking. All we have to do is point and call. 


Excerpts taken from Shaunti’s newest book, Find Joy: A Devotional Journey to Unshakable Wonder in an Uncertain World from iDisciple Publishing 

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