One day this week I was sitting on an LA subway (translate: no internet) without emails or text messages to distract me from the growing anxiety and worry over to-do lists and conquering of constantly looming life questions.
“Am I making enough money?”
“Am I wasting time/my life?”
“Should I go home for Christmas or would it be wiser to stay in town?”
“Did I email so-and-so about the time change for the coffee meeting in two weeks?”
“Is marriage in the cards for me?”
“Do I already have a padded envelope to do that mailing or do I need to pick one up?”
Questions were coming at me like I was sitting at the base of a waterfall.
All mixed together. No theme or particular problem to unite them.
My whole life was starting to suffocate me at the Pershing Square station and that part that felt most suffocating was that it was so easy to answer every question with negativity.
“No, there’s not enough time/money/energy/happiness in my day.”
Brene Brown talks about a mentality of scarcity in many of her books. We wake up and immediately see everything through the filter of not enough. We wake up having not gotten enough sleep. We are frustrated at work and it’s probably because we hate our job and we hate it because we aren’t doing what we really want to do but we aren’t doing what we really want to do for another hundred reasons. Before we know it, we’re on a rabbit trail to nowhere positive and we get in bed, not enough, not ready to do it all again tomorrow.
The good news? Even science is saying happiness is a choice. Sometimes you don’t feel like choosing it, but getting active in being grateful instead of perpetuating a poverty mentality means that you play a part in deciding when the waterfall turns off.
Waiting for my train to arrive, I opened up my notes app and just made a list of everything that was good in my life. There were no other parameters other than just to keep writing until I could feel the anxiety starting to list. I started with the basics. I have two parents who love me. Those two parents love each other. Those two parents are healthy. (Look, when the anxiety is creeping in, I’m all about pulling as many punches to fight it back including looking for even the tiniest of good things.) I listed my friends by name. I listed the fun opportunities I’ve had at work and how I’ve grown as a result of the amazing people I’ve gotten to see pushing the limits on their own career. I listed my favorite foods. I listed everything and before I knew it, the train was pulling up and I was getting on board feeling way less crushed.
The funny thing is I could be doing this every day! I should be doing this every day, but so many times I let anxiety and doubt and fear run the show for much longer than they should. I can go for weeks lending them my ear before I even stop to think about how much good I have in my life.
So what are you grateful for?
If all you have is 30 seconds on your elevator ride, claim it back from worry and give it over to a little gratefulness. Don’t put limits on what you can be grateful for. Don’t edit. Nothing is too small. Nothing is too obvious.