One of the many cool aspects of working at a university health and wellness center is that you are constantly surrounded by research driven concepts to improve peoples’ health and wellness. Additionally, your coworkers are always talking about different health topics from the newest law that allows women to receive contraception from a pharmacist at places like Target, to the concept of positive psychology. Given my love for self-improvement literature, it’s no surprise that I find the concept of positive psychology very intriguing. Positive psychology, in the most basic terms, is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive.
There are numerous strengths and virtues that contribute to happiness, but one that I am particularly interested in is gratitude. You see, I’ve never had much patience for complaining. I just don’t see the point. Why shed that negative light on something that probably really isn’t even that bad? I get that sometimes it might just feel good to let it out, but reminding yourself to be grateful also feels pretty awesome and will likely snap you out of whatever crappy mood you’re in. Also, there’s always someone worse off than you. Let’s take working late for instance, because I feel like this is very frequently complained about. Sure, it’s not fun, but it’s pretty great that you have a job, that may even be your dream job, and are making a living. You could be forced to work two jobs, get paid less than minimum wage and barely making it by. You could be working countless hours in a job that puts your health at risk. Your situation already sounds better right?
As much as I hate complaining, I admit that I do have my moments when a complaint sneaks into my thoughts. However, I’ve learned to recognize these moments and make an effort to shift my mindset. I promise you, it does wonders. We had a crazy busy weekend recently and it gave me multiple chances to practice gratitude in situations that I could have complained. Here is breakdown of the weekend and my thoughts:
- We drove to the bay area on Friday after work. I was sitting in a meeting before I left and thought, “Man I really wish we didn’t have to drive for two hours after work today.” I could have let that thought put me in a crappy mood. Instead, I thought “At least it means I get to spend two uninterrupted hours with my husband and we have a reliable, comfortable car to get us there.” It ended up being a very enjoyable drive and I got to spend some great quality time with my in-laws.
- Originally when I thought about all the activities of the weekend, I got overwhelmed and stressed. There was a lot of coordinating that needed to happen and lots of travel time. Then I realized, wow it’s pretty awesome that we have so many friends and family around us. When we lived in San Diego, we pretty much did whatever we wanted every weekend. I’m not going to lie, it was awesome and at times we miss it. Now there are birthday parties, wedding related events, dinners, etc, but we are so lucky that we now get to be around for all of these events. This was the first year we were able to celebrate our nephew’s birthday and I am so happy and grateful we were able to share that moment with him and the rest of our family.
- After the beach I frantically made my way to San Francisco to meet up with my cousin. Of course the timing was perfect and a Giants game was starting soon after we got there. This would have been a prime time to complain. There was traffic and people everywhere. Instead, I tried to soak it all in and be grateful that I got to stay in such a cool location so close to the stadium.
- Our evening plans included going to the Chris Stapelton concert at the Greek Theater in Berkeley (which was absolutely amazing!!). We had never been to this venue, so we really weren’t sure what to expect. You know what I didn’t expect? A HUGE line of people waiting to get in. This was not ideal. However, it was a great opportunity for all of us ladies that don’t see each other as often as we would like to spend some quality time together (with wine in red solo cups of course).
- My travel plans came to an end on Sunday when I took Amtrak from the Bay Area back home. After a loooong weekend, two hours on public transportation wasn’t exactly my idea of fun. However, without public transportation I would not have been able to do all that I did last weekend. I was also so tired that it probably wouldn’t have been super safe for me to drive. Instead, I got to sit back and check out this view for most of my ride. Thank you Amtrak for connecting the Bay Area to Davis.
- Finally, Sunday dinner. At this point, I was pretty wiped out from an extremely fun weekend. Making dinner sounded like an incredible obstacle. However, once I started doing it I thought, “At least I have food in my fridge to cook, know how to cook and actually enjoy cooking.” When you put it like that, making dinner really isn’t all that bad. My body was also very grateful for the homemade meal after a weekend away form my kitchen.
We can’t expect other people or material items to make and keep us happy. We must do it ourselves through our own thoughts and actions. All I ask is that next time you are feeling like complaining about something, try to think of a way to spin it. How can you be grateful in this situation instead? Then reflect on the situation and try to notice if there was a change in your mood. I’d love to hear how it goes! 🙂