I have a friend whose daughter had her first car accident two weeks after she got her driver’s license. Surprisingly, her first reaction was one of gratitude.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better first accident if I had scripted it myself,” she said. “Nobody was hurt, I was literally driving right behind her so she wasn’t alone, and the woman she hit couldn’t have been sweeter. She had a teenage son who had just gotten into a car accident himself right after getting his license, so she was incredibly understanding. Afterward, our insurance paid the claim immediately. And, best of all, it made my daughter a better driver, so, all in all, it was kind of a blessing.”
How many people take a car accident – something that is, at the very least, an inconvenience for all concerned – and find not one, but five, things to be grateful for? She could have been fixated by the cost of fixing her daughter’s car, the horrible injuries that could have happened, or the trauma of seeing her daughter get in an accident, but she chose to find the good in the whole episode.
That is the gift of gratitude: the ability to displace negativity with positivity and consider car accidents lucky.
I try to bring that same energy with me every day. After all, it takes the same effort to be grateful for the good in your life as it does to be pissed off at the bad, but the benefits you derive from gratitude far outweigh the benefits (if there are any) of negativity.
People who live in gratitude are happier, more productive, healthier, more successful and have better relationships than people who dwell in negativity. (There’s a whole body of science behind this assertion that I won’t bore you with, but if you want to know more, just Google “positive psychology” or check out the Good Think website.)
Think about it: if you’re reading this article, you have access to the internet. Which, in and of itself, makes you privileged, since only about 40 percent of people on the planet have internet. If you’re in decent health, consider that another tick in the plus column. Is your car working? That’s another one. Do you have a steady job? Another one.
But what if you don’t have a steady job or your car is on its last legs? Then find something else to be grateful for. I promise you, there is something.
We will always find something to dislike about our lives. Someone will always have a nicer home, a more enlightened husband, a better-behaved dog – whatever. But we don’t have to have perfect to be happy.
Life in itself is a gift, a privilege beyond belief. And if we’re lucky enough to have a good friend or two, or a partner who loves us, even better.
I try to spend a little time every day dwelling on the good things that happened to me in the last 24 hours. Maybe the sandwich I had at lunch was extra good, or the conversation I had with the stranger waiting in line at Starbucks was interesting, or my dogs were particularly loving when I got home. Whatever it is, I remember it, savor it, and revel in it.
Keeping a journal is a great way to do this, but it’s not absolutely necessary. As long as you take the time to think back on your day and come up with a few good things that happened to you, you’ll reap the benefits of your own positivity.
And if you bring that spirit with you through life, you can light the world with it.