If you can read this, you are more privileged than the 18 percent of the world’s adult population who cannot read. If you slept in a bed last night, you have it better than the millions of people who are homeless. If you have access to clean water and sanitation, then you are luckier than the 1,400 children who die everyday from lacking those basic necessities.
If you can safely walk around outside your home, then you have it easier than the countless people who live in war zones, areas of conflict, and crime-ridden neighborhoods. And if you have enough food to get through today, you will outlive hundreds of thousands of people who are not so fortunate. Even the fact that you have lived as long as you have is a blessing, do not take it for granted.
This is a harsh piece for our healthy living site, I know. But it’s so easy to get caught up in our relatively petty dramas, and I wanted to point out the insult and futility of that level of self-absorption. Yes, we all have dreams we want to pursue. Many of us dream of creating a better life for our families and ourselves. Dreaming is healthy; it gives us direction and momentum.
But complaining is a slap in life’s face. Complaining is the exact opposite of gratitude. And as you probably know, we are big on gratitude in these parts.
Be Grateful or Get Out
Gratitude is life affirming. It tells life that we recognize how blessed we are, whatever our situation. Gratitude paves the way for us to create more of what we want in our lives.
Dissatisfaction does have a place. If we recognize our discomfort, we can use that recognition to help us make healthy transitions. Sometimes we need to learn through contrast, and seeing how we want to change our lives can help us become healthier and more radiant. But we need to remain in gratitude, even through our understanding of the need for evolution. This creates the space to build a future that is aligned with our highest aspirations.
Complaining, on the other hand, tends to give us more of what we do not want. A complaint is basically like sticking our middle finger up at life, and by extension all the people that are less fortunate than us.
As stated at the beginning of this piece, if you are able to read this in comfort and safety, you have nothing to complain about.
Part of the Solution
The thing is, complaining is so seductive. As they say, misery loves company. Once you start to focus on what you don’t have or cannot do, you can easily spiral down to total pessimism and bitterness. This helps no one, least of all you. Self-pity is one the ugliest human expressions, and it only blocks us from living in abundance and joy. But gratitude can set us free.
One key to experiencing gratitude and getting over yourself is to be of service. Find a meaningful way that you can contribute to other’s health and happiness. Bonus points for finding something that you actually enjoy doing and that utilizes your skills and talents.
There are lots of ways to do this. If you are a great cook, volunteer to prepare meals at a homeless shelter. If you do graphic design, help a non-profit that inspires you to create an effective website or fundraising material. If you are a writer, work on grants for a cause in which you believe. If you are great at generating ideas and increasing productivity, offer your time as a consultant.
Ultimately it does not matter what you do, so long as you are contributing from your heart. It is not about getting to play the superiority game or pacifying guilt, but simply being a part of the solution. Authentic, heart-felt service is incredibly liberating on an individual level, but it also creates more positive energy in the world.
The next time you find yourself complaining about anything, stop. Just stop, as soon as you realize you are in a negative spin. Take a deep breath and count your blessings. Whatever challenges you might be facing, there is always a reason to be grateful. That gratitude is the key that will allow you to actually change your situation. It is also a way to acknowledge how blessed you actually are at all times.
There are many, many people hurting in this world. Most of us can do very little to change that on an individual level. But it is wise to remember that truth as we think about our lives. If we can choose to be in service, we are more likely to recognize the pettiness of our problems. And instead of adding more negativity through complaining, we can contribute in positive and meaningful action.