This morning I came across a video ad for Water is Life called “First World Problems Anthem.” This PSA style advertisement features individuals living in third world environments speaking about first world problems as popularly hash tagged on Twitter.
Perhaps this ad centers a bit heavily on guilt, and, ironically, those using the hash tag are usually alluding to the fact that they are aware that they are not experiencing a real problem; but there is an undeniable truth that we all too often forget.
If you are reading this blog, there is a very high likelihood that you are in the top 2% of the wealthiest people in the world. As I watched this video, my irritated haste to finish my cup of coffee before it crossed the lukewarm border was suddenly irrelevant. When I stop and consciously think about my life, I am too incredibly blessed to even begin to put it into writing. Besides the obvious things to be thankful for (friends, family, health, food, water, etc.) there are so many more blessings that I often present as complaints.
Recently a friend was telling me about her experience at a silence retreat. She said that during this weekend of zero verbal communication, she realized that every time she wanted to say something, it was a complaint. “It’s cold in here” or “I’m hungry,” “This food is gross” or “I’m tired.” It made me think about how true this is in my life as well.
Whether I’m complaining about work, family, friends, technology, etc., there is so much unnecessary negativity each day. I’m not saying we should all hold hands around the campfire singing Kumbaya and talking about how awesome double rainbows are, but maybe we could benefit from a more positive life view. All of us can think of that one person we know whose positivity lists our spirits- that person that we actually enjoy spending time with because we come away refreshed. And of course we all know a few negative Nellys, Nancys and Neds.
This year, as we approach the season of Thanksgiving and the season of family, friends and giving, let’s make a conscious effort to convert our griping into gratitude, because we are truly blessed.
If you would like to join me in this self-improvement initiative, I have included a Thanksgiving exercise below that I used previously when teaching middle school students. It may feel cheesy at first, but I can never walk away from this exercise without feeling renewed.
Instructions: Write down 5-10 of your most common complaints.
1. Everything is so expensive that I rarely have enough “fun money.”
2. Traffic is horrible. I have to leave early in the morning to make it to work on time because it takes me an hour to get there.
Now re-write your above statements as reasons to be thankful.
1. I am very thankful to bring in an income that enables me to have a place to live, one or more cars to drive, multiple outfits to wear, a variety of meal options, power/running water, and even sometimes allows me to do fun stuff like travel or go to the movie theater.
2. I am very thankful to have the financial means to own a car and the physical means to drive it. I am very blessed to have a paying job in this economy that I do not have to walk to.
Whether we are tweeting, talking, or just thinking to ourselves, a little positivity can go a long way. Of course if you do not have time to complete the above exercise, you can always boost your spirits by watching my favorite curly haired optimist.
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