I realized, at some point, that I had been upset and bitter every day—and I had no idea why.
You know that dark cloud that seems to hover over just one person in cartoons? I was that one person. I didn’t understand why, no matter how many shopping trips I took or how many people I had around me, I still found it difficult to be happy.
It took some slowing down and reconnecting to what really matters for me to see that I was the problem. Although it was a hard pill to swallow, I was choosing to be unhappy. I was feeding the dark cloud what it needed to stay alive.
This cloud of bitterness grew every day due to my failure to see the beauty around me, and it prevented me from seeing how lucky I really am. I used to believe that having chaos in my life was a part of success. When things went right, it didn’t feel right.
What I learned was that one of the greatest keys to health and happiness is gratitude.
Gratitude was a common theme as I started my self-improvement journey. I understood why expressing gratitude was so important, but I didn’t understand how I could apply this practice to my everyday life.
I used to roll my eyes when people would say, “The more time spent on focusing on what you don’t have, the less time is spent on what you want.” Yeah okay, but that’s easy for others to say when they are already living the life they want. What about finding gratitude when things aren’t so great and goals seem too far to reach?
Being unhappy sucks, and I had a bad habit of allowing troubling times to ruin my joy. It is not always easy to find gratitude in our hearts when it feels like our world is turned upside down.
How could I possibly show appreciation when it did not feel like there was anything to appreciate? How can I feel gracious when I have problem after problem coming up and people around me testing my patience?
It’s actually quite simple—and after some effort and practice, it got easier. At first, it was more work than I was willing to put in; however, I got tired of the chaos and negativity that surrounded me. So, I made an effort to establish an attitude that sets the tone for a productive day.
I never realized how much I complained until I examined how much time I was spending worrying and stressing about how incomplete my life felt. What a waste of time that was. I had a job, but it wasn’t ideal. I had money, but it wasn’t enough. I had a roof over my head, but I didn’t own it. I started to question if my problems were even problems at all.
There were miracles around me that I failed to notice—because I felt like they weren’t enough.
Truth is, I had plenty to appreciate. Choosing to focus on the positive, I realized that there are always things I can be thankful for.
Things may not be going exactly the way I foresee them or fast enough, but the sun still rises, and the rain still pours.
When challenges do present themselves, we must consider the areas in our lives that have nothing to do with our challenges. I now perform a gratitude check by asking myself these questions: Am I alive? Check. Am I healthy? Check. Do I have a warm bed to lie in every night? Check.
I get emotional when I think about how I fortunate I am because I used to ignore my fortune. To me, wealth has become more about health and happiness than money. And, I remind myself of my good fortune throughout the day. On those rare days in Florida when the air is brisk, I remember how lucky I am to own a heavy sweater and have working electricity, which is more than many other people have.
My freedom is a blessing that I now avoid taking for granted.
The greatest thing about showing gratitude is that it is super simple and doesn’t require a lot of money or time. Although negativity spreads faster than positivity, gratitude has the power to be contagious. Saying thank you or giving someone a gift is a great start.
Saying thank you is one of my favorite ways, and I never say it unless I really mean it. Not only am I showing appreciation, but it makes others feel good when they know that they are appreciated.
It’s now hard to start my day without expressing appreciation for the opportunity to start a fresh day as soon as I open my eyes in the morning. I feel gracious for the bed that I woke up in and will go to sleep in. Starting and ending my day with gratitude is like opening and closing a book on the good parts.
It is such a satisfying feeling when I take the time to think about the day ahead and then later look over my day and list the good things that happened. It is a great way to relive the moment. What made me smile or laugh? Was I able to make someone else smile or laugh?
Heck, these days with all of the increased traffic and road rage in my city, I am happy just to make it home in one piece.
In the grand scheme of things, my worries don’t mean much. After all, when I’m on my deathbed, I will not be wishing for more money in my bank account or asking for my phone. I will be hoping for more time to spend with my loved ones and to do the things that bring me joy.
Unfortunately, obstacles will always present themselves, but along with those obstacles there will also be blessings. Acknowledging those blessings and keeping a positive attitude allows us to let go of unnecessary baggage. It’s a great feeling, and one that we can give ourselves any time of the day. Now, that’s a wonderful thing to be grateful for!