I am feeling anxious today. I woke up feeling this way. I’m not sure what causes it – something I ate, or maybe a bad dream – but it happens from time to time. I know that my feelings and emotions originate with my thoughts, but I am not always consciously aware of what I’m thinking about.
I call it anxiety because that’s the word I have learned to use as an adult. When I was a child I called it fear. I knew what it felt like to be afraid, and I usually knew why. But as an adult I just feel sort of… anxious.
It’s this vague sense of discomfort that expands if I try to shrug it off. But I know better than to do that. If I don’t get to the root of the problem it grows like a cancer. Before long, I start to feel angry and resentful. Then I begin to sound grumpy, and I’m not nice to be around when I’m grumpy.
So, today, I hand over my anxiety to my Higher Power. This is something I’m learning to do on a day to day basis; moment by moment, actually. I just let it go. I used to wonder how this was done, and I have found that practicing gratitude is the best way.
‘Gratitude’ is a daily exercise that is done the moment I get up in the morning. I begin by giving thanks for everything; everybody and every circumstance that comes to mind. I am grateful for good things: My wife and kids, my health, and all of the comforts of life that I take for granted. I also give thanks for things like a sore back, and for my next door neighbor whom I dislike.
It’s a form of “count your blessings” that was taught to me as a child but with a slight twist to it: I also give thanks for the “hidden blessings.” I express my gratitude for things that cause me pain, things that I don’t like, and things that make me feel anxious. This is the best way I know to control my thoughts: Don’t worry about anything, and give thanks for everything.
As simple and cliché as this may sound, it actually works! It’s not important to know which thoughts are causing my anxiety. I simply need to express gratitude for everything. Period.
Something magical happens when I practice gratitude: I start to feel better. Practicing this on a daily basis tends to keep me on an even keel. I don’t have ‘bad days’ like I used to. I am a lot less grumpy. I feel lighter, and more relaxed. When bad things happen I recover much quicker. My wife actually enjoys my company. My boss doesn’t piss me off like he use to… (You get the picture.)
Happiness is a choice. And it’s totally doable. It just takes your resolve and some of your time. And, yes, there are practical things that you can do to stay happy; like practicing gratitude.
“Don’t worry about anything, but pray and give thanks for everything!” Phil.4:6