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Frustrated? Be grateful.

This time of year always brings out discussions of gratitude. Among the many social media or blog posts I’ve seen this month, this particular Buzzfeed article by Nathan W. Pyle really struck a chord with me: 10 Privileges I Have Complained About. Since reading this article, I’ve been making a conscious effort to reflect on whether complaints I make throughout the day are coming from a place of privilege, and instead of letting my frustration grow, being grateful for the many advantages I have. Even though it hasn’t kept me from complaining completely, it’s been an enlightening experience to actively reflect on the context in which my negative thoughts or frustrations appear and frame them in a way that inspires more positive and constructive reactions.

My yoga instructor recited the following quote in yesterday’s class:

[Tweet “It is not happy people who are thankful.
It is thankful people who are happy.“]

My own personal philosophy is not really about striving for happiness above all else, although in general I would describe myself as a happy person. I strive to live a purposeful life, and I strive to help others, to contribute to my community in a positive way, to learn as much as I can, and to grow as an individual, friend, partner, teacher, and citizen of the world. There are other components to my personal philosophy, but I think you get the picture: I believe there is more to life than just being happy, although I think it can certainly be a byproduct of living my life in the way I described above. Anyway, I think that for me to be the very best version of myself, gratitude needs to be a core component of my daily routine.

This idea may seem similar to the adage that you should see the glass as half full, or look on the sunny side, or consider the positive side of any situation. It’s true that the sentiment is similar, but I view the process as different, and more effective in getting over negative emotions. Instead of just trying to remember to “be positive” or “look on the bright side”, instead:

REACT TO FRUSTRATION WITH GRATITUDE 

I view this suggestion as more concrete than just “think positively,” and therefore something I can actually implement on a daily basis. Vague resolutions are bound to be broken eventually, because there isn’t a concrete plan with actionable steps. Here, the steps are: 1) When complaining, or feeling the urge to complain, or feeling the urge to share a negative experience, acknowledge why you feel frustrated; 2) Consider all the factors that have gone into creating this situation; and 3) express gratitude for at least one specific factor that has had a part in creating this frustration.

Having trouble sticking with your learning plan?  Frustrated that you can’t understand a particular grammar point? Disappointed with yourself because you haven’t been to class recently?

Instead of allowing yourself to continue with these negative reactions to yourself (you are human, after all, and you’re not perfect!), try to consider what there is in the situation to be grateful for.

Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a family and social life that has been demanding more time than usual. Or you’ve made so much progress with other grammar topics that it just seems like this particular one is impossible. Or you’re fortunate enough to have a new opportunity at work that cuts into your class time.

By acknowledging the privileges that distort your perspective, you can shift your reaction from harsh disappointment or self-judgment to gratitude. And with that shift comes acceptance and peace, a place where you can constructively approach the situation at hand.

In other words, it really does make you feel better. I plan on continuing the practice indefinitely (as in, not just because tomorrows Thanksgiving) in the hopes that gratitude becomes my most common initial reaction.

Gratitude. It’s really a lovely feeling. Try it today, tomorrow, sometime soon, and share your experiences. And Happy Thanksgiving to you readers in the USA!

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Written by

Tammy Bjelland
Language lover, teacher & coach.

Recent comments

One response to “Frustrated? Be grateful.”

  1. Great use of bold letters and pictures, what languages do you speak?