I have a Facebook friend who posted some insights into the challenging year she coped with in 2017. She talked about how much time had been wasted focusing on events that happened outside her physical control. At the end of a fairly long note, she concluded that being a person who refused to complain about these situations was the only thing she had control over.
Social media is filled with folks unhappy about something – heck, we have whole pages devoted to ranting and raving.
But does it serve you to rant?
Complaining can be useful, like when you need to send back badly-cooked food in a restaurant (although even that can be risky).
Sometimes, complaints can be amusing. Comedians make a point of wittily drawing your attention to what’s wrong in the world.
And I’ve used amusing customer service faux pas and ball-dropping anecdotes to reinforce ideas during presentations.
But complaining as a regular feature of your life and your engagement with others grows tiresome in a hurry. It’s an extremely unattractive trait that creates a negative environment all around you. Either people get sucked into the complaining vortex or they start avoiding you completely.
Of course, being relentlessly cheerful and artificially upbeat is no better strategy.
Finding that elusive balance of simple appreciation can come down to learning how to develop a realistic form of gratitude.
Your words have power, especially over you. Whining about your problems always makes you feel worse, not better. So if something is wrong, put that mental energy into making the situation better – or at very least reframe it into something more palatable.
While everyone is making weight-loss goals this year, what if you made a commitment to simply stop talking about what’s wrong? Instead, make a resolution to talk about how you could make things better, even if that conversation is only with yourself.
Do the same with your friends or colleagues. Don’t just be a shoulder they can cry on. Friends don’t let friends whine; friends help friends make their lives better.
Let 2018 be the year you show a new attitude of gratitude. Practising gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from illness and injury.
But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what’s broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to reach its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a word. We have to develop a habit of seeing things in this perspective. Like any habit, it can take some time.
In 2018, will the effort you make in this regard be worth the daily practise?
When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing. Conflicts get reduced and we create an energy around ourselves that others want to be a part of.
Gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist (they’re in the news every day), but when we focus on the gifts in our lives despite the negatives, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.
I certainly have had plenty of things to complain about in my life – but I have plenty more to celebrate!
This year, my resolution will be to focus more often on what I can control and contribute to.
Will a habit of gratitude and problem solving be on your resolution list?
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.