Increase Gratitude, Be Happier.

The other day, I sat, grumbling and annoyed, in line to get my auto emissions test. I grew more agitated the longer I waited and asked “why is my car subject to this when others spewing foul, noxious fumes are exempt?” and “why do I have to pay for it?” It suddenly dawned on me just how jaded & spoiled I had become, instead of complaining, shouldn’t I be grateful that I have a car? When I was living in DC and NYC, I saw people walking and biking to work, often in the harshest weather conditions under the blazing sun or with sleet and rain dripping down their backs. And this is in some of the wealthiest areas of one of the most affluent countries in the world. Imagine the life of the average resident of a developing country; where drinkable water is a luxury; where children can be forced into hard labor; where human trafficking is a profession; where there is a dearth or complete lack of adequate medical facilities; where access to education is only for the rich who can afford it; where there is widespread hunger. In other words, where all the conveniences, safety, freedom, services and facilities we so take for granted rarely exist.

Without gratitude, there can be no happiness or contentment. If you really think about it, how can you be fulfilled and satisfied if you don’t appreciate what you have? I’m not speaking just of material things. How often have I snapped at my husband and daughter, both of whom I love unreservedly and profoundly, when I was irritated by something trivial they did? How often have I become irritated and impatient while waiting in line at a grocery store when I should have appreciated that I can afford groceries. How often have I complained about the cost of home ownership when I should be rejoicing in the fact that I have a home? How many times did I express my dissatisfaction with the level of service provided by servers in restaurants when I should count my blessings that I can dine out. When in fact, I should have realized that they may be having a bad day or going through tough times, and been grateful that my life is going in a positive direction.

I found this simple exercise to be amazingly beneficial for increasing gratitude, thus, happiness. The next time you catch yourself feeling discontentment toward someone or something, ask yourself “what would my life be like without this person or item?” I’m betting this will provide a whole new perspective and clarity. As cheesy as this may sound, you’re probably thinking I collect and arrange healing crystals while singing kumbaya. Nope, I’m just someone pursuing more happiness and joy instead of wasting energy on negativity.

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