We are in countdown mode as the end of the year approaches. We are counting down to Christmas morning when we get to see the holidays through our grandchildren’s eyes. We are counting down parties and celebrations with family and friends as we welcome a new year. We are even counting down in the barn. We have counted down to only one empty stall left in the barn this Christmas season. The cats have all moved to the back of the barn as they snuggle together, creating a giant fur ball of orange, black and white. As the winter winds howl outside, they are thankful there is room for them in the warm barn as the star on the Harvestore shines over the spot.
Once we’ve counted down, then we need to start counting up the number of bales of baleage left in the tube. The number of doors closed in the silos. The number of animals on hand as we create a starting point of inventory for the balance sheet to kick off the new year.
We can also count up the memories of the past year and blessings of the year to come. However, it might feel hard to count blessings and find good memories after a tough year of loss and sadness. Why is it we seem to focus on the bad memories and struggle to recall the good? A professor at the University of North Carolina said, “The negatives scream at you but the positives only whisper.”
Wow, is that so true. In my mind, I can replay mistakes I’ve made over and over, reminding me how bad I felt, cementing those negative feeling to my mood and self-esteem. Dr. Byran Sexton of MidMichigan Health said we are hardwired to remember the negative memories as a survival tool from hundreds of years ago. An example he used is how a dementia patient can still recognize the danger of a rattlesnake sound when nothing else around them makes sense. He said it is hard to remember the positives of the day because they are not necessary for protecting us from the dangers of tomorrow.
“If we ruminate and worry about the past or obsess about something we did wrong, it can prevent us from doing that wrong thing again, helping to keep us alive a little bit longer,” said Sexton. “But worry, anxiety and rumination will never help us to thrive.”
Dr. Sexton said memories are tricky. Good ones slip away like Teflon while bad ones stick to us like Velcro or static cling socks, especially when we are tired. We are more likely to remember bad experiences than good ones when we struggle to sleep.
We need to retrain our brains so we can remember the good things and our role in bringing them about. At the end of the day, after supper but before your head hits the pillow, say three good things about the day and how you helped them come about. Dr. Sexton calls this preloading our brain with positive patterns and positive things before you falling asleep, which equals a better mood and better sleep quality. He calls this the three good things exercise. He said if you do this every evening for two weeks, you will form a new habit. You’ll start to notice things during the day and log them away for your three good things routine in the evening.
Austin brought a similar idea to our weekly Tuesday breakfast farm meetings. He suggested we start each meeting on a positive note. We voice something we did or something we noticed others doing that are important to us. My first positive was how excited I get seeing the numbers climb after the milk truck picks up our milk. We have finally hit 10,000 pounds with every-other-day pickup. Austin and Mark are doing such a good job with feeding and milking the cows. It was something I felt, but probably didn’t tell them directly, until our meeting. Now I’m on the lookout for positives I can bring to the next Tuesday meeting. This three good things exercise may actually work.
So while we are busy counting down, let’s not forget to count up our blessings and joys as we say goodbye to 2021 and welcome 2022.
    As their four children pursue dairy careers off the family farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota.