Over years of learning about happiness and success, emotional stamina and wellbeing, I realized that gratitude is the best antidote for frustration. Frustration is a feeling, a thought. If we change the thought to gratitude, we will no longer feel any pain.
Life is full of challenges as we grow and become more aware of our surrounding. We are born into total dependency and we learn from our parents and other adults around us how to be frustrated when our desires are not fulfilled. This brings us lots of heartache and suffering.
The way we react to frustrations in life as kids is the way we will react to frustrations in life as grownups. We also pass this way of reacting to our children and the cycle never ends. If our reaction to frustration is positive and empowered, we hope the cycle will continue, but if our reaction to frustration is painful, we must stop the cycle NOW!
This week, I had a chat to my 14-year-old daughter Noff. We talked about her being very frustrated about an upcoming school assembly, which she hated. I told her about Pollyanna, the girl who inspired me to be a positive person and change my life from frustration to success. I asked her, “What is good about the assembly tomorrow?” She answered straight away, “It’s the last assembly of the year and there are no classes during assembly”. This made her feel better.
You see, there is something good in everything, even if it seems all bad at first glance.
Gratitude is an integral part of the philosophy behind every culture and religion. It is not the ritual that matters but the attitude. When we are in a state of gratitude, we trigger the part of the brain that is happy and content with what we have, rather than focus on what we don’t have.
When I work with couples in a relationship crisis, I ask them to tell me about the first time they met and their whole attitude changes. I can see smiles and eyes glowing. I ask them to write 100 good things about their partner as homework. 100 things are not easy to write when you are in a relationship crisis, but it is enough to shift their focus to what they have and away from what they need.
Seek good things and you shall find gratitude
Research about happiness found that writing evening three good things that happened to you throughout the day every evening for 21 days can increase your happiness significantly.
The shift starts after about 3 days, when your brain (more correct, a filter in the brain called the Reticular Activating System or RAS) knows that in the evening, it will be asked to find good things that happened throughout the day, so it is more alert during day and watches for them constantly. And when you look for good things, you find them!
Frustration is always a result of taking things for granted and not being able to appreciate what we have. Modern humans are in a rush to get more, achieve more and have more, rather than be more, and when I say “be more”, I mean be more friendly, be kinder, be more successful, be calmer, be more content, be more appreciative and be happier.
We are very fortunate people and if we don’t think we are fortunate, we focus on what we don’t have, which brings frustration, anger, sadness and disappointment to our life. When we are stuck, we need to remind ourselves to be grateful and appreciative. It is good to do it every day and especially important to do it when things are tough.
Here is a list of things to be grateful for. Learn them, add more things of your own and put them in a place you can look at them when things are hard. Why? Because you’re worth it, and because happiness is a choice.
- Be grateful for every day you get up in the morning. Every day is a new day and you can use it start fresh.
- Be grateful for your health. Health is a gift we should never take for granted. It is always better to appreciate it rather than fight for it when it is too late.
- Be grateful for endings, because they clear the space for new beginnings. Every door that closes behind you leads to a new chapter in your life.
- Be grateful for the wonderful people in your life. Without them, the journey would not be as meaningful. Thank them every day!
- Be grateful for feeling love, because love is powerful and gives you energy. Cherish loving moments and when you feel bad, remind yourself that you are capable of love.
- Be grateful for all the people in life who support you on your journey through life. Those who function as the wind blowing at your back and help you move forward.
- Be grateful for all those who do not support you on your journey, because they help you learn who are your true friends and teach you great lessons about who to hang out with and who to avoid.
- Be grateful for all the surprises in life, the good and the bad, because they make life interesting and fascinating and expose you to things you would not be exposed to in any other way.
- Be grateful for the obstacles in life, because they show you just how strong you are. Much like the weights at the gym, the only way to know how much you can lift is to get under them and push, in life, to know how much you can overcome, you have to experience difficulties.
- Be grateful for the small movements in your life and remember that they accumulate and teach you resilience.
- Be grateful for the choices you do have, rather than the things you cannot control. When you are stuck, ask yourself, “What can I do now?” and it will remind you that you can always, always do something.
- Be grateful for being you with all your glory and flows. Each of us is unique and special and one of a kind. Every time we feel we want to blend in, we need to remind ourselves that no matter what we do, we still stay us! One of a kind!
- Be grateful for your skills and never take them for granted. Whenever you dismiss your abilities by saying “everyone can do that”, you are wrong! Not everyone can do it. It is a fact that some people can do some things and cannot do other things.
- Be grateful for having a shelter. I remind myself every time it rains that I am fortunate to have a roof over my head. As I am teaching diversity education, I know how many people around the world are homeless.
- If you can read this, then be grateful for your education that gave you knowledge and the ability to enjoy words and ideas written and spoken. Reading opened a whole new world for me. I am sure it did the same to you too.
The list of things to be grateful for is huge. The more we have on it, the more we are in a state of gratitude and this is the antidote to pain, depression, disappointment and frustration. Make your list and use it as a reminder.
Happiness is a choice!