Every day, I seem to find myself mindlessly thinking things like “If only I had that” or “It would be so much better if this would happen” and end up making myself crazy thinking about the things my life is “lacking." It’s so easy to get caught up in nostalgia, in comparisons and in complaints. It’s so tempting to trap ourselves in the thinking that our lives are never good enough and that we can’t really be happy until we achieve just one more thing or until one thing happens at just the right time. While it’s great to be reminded that life can and will always get better, and there are always new experiences to be had, the way I had been going about this started to take its toll on me. Instead of an attitude of chasing after dreams while appreciating what I currently had, I found myself with an attitude of wanting and never being satisfied. This, inevitably, left me feeling sad quite often.
One day when I was feeling sad about some things, I stopped myself from continuing my negative thoughts. I decided at that moment that I was going to actively try to remind myself of the good things about my life anytime I was tempted to think about something that would inevitably make me feel like my current life wasn’t enough to make me happy. I decided that I would focus on my life as it is, at the present moment, and choose to be grateful for every little blessing I had been given.
At first, this felt unnatural. I found myself thinking, “I just wish I had…wait, no…I’m glad I have a family…” in my attempt of choosing to be grateful. It was a bit awkward and I felt like I was going crazy, but it actually seemed to work. So, I kept trying this practice of actively thinking (or saying out loud) something I am grateful for every time I started to feel a doubtful, pessimistic thought coming.
After a few days, the awkward and forced “I’m happy that I have friends” thoughts turned into natural “I’m really happy that I have this job right now” thoughts. These thoughts actually made me a lot happier every time I would think them, which made my outlook on each day brighter than the day before.
Then, after a few weeks, an amazing thing happened. I found myself actually “forgetting” to wish I had something else or complain to myself about how I miss something. I caught myself thinking, without having to be prompted by a negative thought, about things that really brought my heart true joy. I woke up in the mornings in awe of the sunrise, I savored my morning coffee and felt each sip preparing me to face the day ahead, I smiled to myself and thought about happy memories from the day before and I breathed the fresh air while taking walks through the park on my own. I found myself feeling truly alive and happy for the first time in a long time.
Freeing myself of negative, dead-end thoughts was the best choice I have made in a long time. It has empowered me with a defense mechanism against fruitless worries and comparisons. It has taught me that grieving and struggling are very different than focusing on difficulties and allowing them to take over my thoughts. It is still a daily task to remind myself of good things about my life and about myself, but it is so much easier than it was when I let myself dwell on negative thoughts. Choosing to be grateful is a wonderful way of choosing to be happy.