Gratitude vs. Complaining

“All happy people are grateful. Ungrateful people cannot be happy. We tend to think that being unhappy leads people to complain, but it is truer to say that complaining leads to people becoming unhappy.” – Dennis Prager

Take a moment to think about this statement. Have you ever known a happy person who wasn’t grateful or a grateful person who wasn’t happy? Perhaps a way to look at this is that happiness is a result of gratitude. The wonderful thing about this is that, while we cannot always just choose to be happy, we can always choose to be grateful, which results in happiness. So in a roundabout way, we are choosing happiness when we choose to be grateful.

There is always something to be grateful about. You can be grateful that you are alive and have opportunities to learn and grow and share love. You can be grateful for the sun, the rain, the snow, the beauty of nature, the green of grass, the glory of trees, the color of flowers, the presence of animals, the food you eat. You can be grateful that you have a computer on which to read this article. If you have health, you can be grateful for that. If you have friends, you can be grateful for them. If you have a mate, children, a home, a car, a job, you can be grateful for them. You can choose to be grateful for all the big and little things in life, each and every moment. The more you choose to notice what is good and beautiful, the happier and more peaceful you will feel.

On the other hand, there are always things to complain about if that is your choice. Instead of noticing the beauty of the flowers, you can complain about having to water them. Instead of being grateful for the opportunity to be alive, you can complain about how hard it is. Instead of being grateful for the sun, the rain, or the snow, you can complain about how hot it is, how wet it is, how gloomy it is, or how cold it is. Instead of being grateful for you food you eat, you can complain about how hard it is to cook it, or how expensive it is to buy it. Instead of being grateful for your health, you can complain about your weight. Instead of being grateful for your partner or your children, you can certainly find endless complaints about them. The more you complain, the more unhappy you will feel. It is not the person or the situation or the event or the past or anything else that is causing your unhappiness – it is your choice to complain about it instead of discovering what is wonderful about it and being grateful for it.

At any given moment, we each get to choose which part of ourselves we want to express – our ego wounded self who lives in our mind or true, essential Self who lives in our heart and soul. If you decide to trust your mind over your heart and soul, you will likely find yourself noticing what you don’t like and complaining about it in order to attempt to control it. Complaining is a form of control and the mind believes that if you complain enough, you can have control over getting what you want.

Your true Self, the aspect of you that is connected with your higher Source of love and truth, lives in the present and feels grateful for the opportunity to express love and appreciation for all that is.

The really great thing is that, given that we are beings of free will, we get to choose who we want to be, each and every moment!

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books, including “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?” and “Healing Your Aloneness.” She is the co-creator of the powerful Inner BondingĀ® healing process. Learn Inner Bonding now! Visit her website for a FREE Inner Bonding course: or email her at Phone sessions available.

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Be Well.
The Gratitude Guru


  1. debbie on October 6, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Hi Paul- I read this yesterday, and had to come back to read it this morning.
    Since I am a glass half full sort of person (actually I think my glass is usually overflowing), this article resonated with me. People complain about the stupidest things. Unhappy with your car? Look who’s walking, riding a bike, the bus. Unhappy with where you live? Try on a box for size, or an alley, park bench.
    I’ve had ‘stuff’, and lost ‘stuff’. I’ve been healthy and I’ve been really sick. But I never lose sight of the big picture, and am always grateful what I have, and who I have.
    Why complain anyways? Nobody cares, and nobody wants to listen.
    As the song says, “Don’t worry, be happy”. You’ll have more friends that way too!

    • Paul on October 6, 2010 at 10:15 am

      Debbie –

      How true! There is always something that you can be happy about in every situation. Yes, EVERY situation.

  2. Doreen Pendgracs on June 4, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Great post, Paul. I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head when you equate a person’s level of gratitude to their feelings of happiness and contentment.

    I was told back in 1975 that in order to be happy, spend time with happy people. I have to say, that was one of the most important life lessons I have learned. Negative people drag you down.

    And as you have said, those negative people are rarely grateful for what they have. They are always looking at the negative side of life. I can definitely live without that influence in my life.

    • Paul on June 5, 2012 at 10:08 am

      I completely agree, Doreen! It is difficult to maintain a happy outlook when surrounded by pessimists and complainers!

  3. Kitty on June 4, 2012 at 11:09 am

    While I agree completely with what you wrote about Gratitude vs Complaining, I feel there is one more point that should be noted. I often hear people complain (& I admit to having done this myself) about something that is unchangable, impossible to remedy, simply an unalterable fact of life such as the loss of a loved one, age, height. Before one can choose or get to an attitude of gratitude about something of that nature it is necessary to fully ACCEPT the reality of it. Often, that is the first action required to break the cycle of futile complaining and open the door to moving on to gratitude in all the other areas of life.

    • Paul on June 5, 2012 at 10:10 am

      The Serenity Prayer says,

      “God grant me the serenity
      to accept the things I cannot change;
      courage to change the things I can;
      and wisdom to know the difference.”

      You are correct, Kitty, harping over an issue that cannot be changed is futile. Folks are better off focusing their energy where it can be put to better use. However, these same people are the ones that do not want to hear this. My advice is to just lead by example.

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