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The Freedom of a Grateful Spirit

Recently, while I was driving in the dreadful Los Angeles traffic, my road rage was slowly creeping in. I had started my morning off chipper, prepared to take on the day feeling that nothing could rob me of my joy. Then, as soon as I merged onto the 10 freeway, I felt my stress levels begin to rise rapidly.

If I’m being honest, driving has been one of the top stress-inducing activities in my life right now. I find myself thinking, “maybe I should’ve stuck with public transportation the rest of my life.” I have to do some quick breathing activities every time I get into my car. (Okay, that’s a lie but I really want you to understand that driving in LA can be stressful).

But, you want to know the most ironic part about this all? I spent years crying, complaining, and praying for a car because I was sick and tired of taking the bus everywhere. I guess there’s just always something to complain about, right?

That same day, I began to feel convicted. As I was driving I became aware of my facial expressions, my body language, and the disturbingly negative thoughts crossing my mind. Immediately, I redirected my focus and told myself I wouldn’t allow my day to start on this note.

When Your Focus Is On What You Wish You Had

In those moments where I’m stressed out driving, I realize I’m mostly upset because things aren’t going the way I want them to. People are not driving the way I want them to and traffic is not going as fast as I need it to. And unfortunately, this is how I approach many other areas of my life.

When you’re constantly focused on what you don’t have or on what's not going your way, chances are you’re not showing gratitude for what you do have in your possession. When you focus on something, of course it’s going to seem bigger than what it is! Because you are directing all of your energy and attention to that very thing. I once read this really cool comparison that has stuck with me for the past few years:

When you look through a telescope, you don’t get the entire view of the universe. The telescope helps you focus on the things you’re searching for. It amplifies it for you! And that’s really cool because you get to see details you missed without a telescope. But having a telescope doesn’t mean you’re always magnifiying on the things you're supposed to.

What I’m trying to say is, what’s amplified in your life? Are you thinking about the million different ways your life is going wrong? Or, are you counting your blessings?

The Blessing Becomes a Burden

If we’re not careful, the things we once yearned for become the most burdensome parts of our life. And if you really think about it, how awful is it to complain about the things you once prayed for? How awful is it to think that your life is somehow going berserk just because someone cut you off in traffic?

Be honest with yourself and take inventory of the words that come out of your mouth and the thoughts that cross your mind. Showing gratitude is proven to reduce stress, increase your optimism, and overall, change your brain in a positive manner. So, if you feel that your emotional and mental health are a wreck right now, I actually want to challenge you to figure out what's greater in your life: your complaining or your gratitude?

Now, I do want to say, in no way do I want to reduce the severity of the issues you go through in life. I’m not saying you have to smile 24/7, forget about your problems, and always act like everything is good. I don’t believe this equates to gratitude at all! However, I do strongly believe that even when you are facing the toughest of circumstances, expressing gratitude for what you have lessens the load on your back and gives way for a more balanced, realistic perspective on your life.

There’s always something to complain about. There’s always something to be grateful for. The choice is yours: what will you amplify?

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