The Inverse Relationship between Anxiety and Gratitude

Are you anxious about money? I know I work on this all the time, a legacy of my multigenerational family history as well as the high chronic anxiety in our society about money at this time. I have been noticing lately that cultivating gratitude almost automatically lowers my anxiety. Anxiety can be defined as a response to a real or imagined threat — and when it comes to money, for most of us we are responding to an imagined threat. Our actual life is not in danger: we have plenty for survival in the moment. Usually we are imagining a future threat — juggling some bills this month or this year, adjusting to a lower standard of living, not having enough resources for retirement. I’m finding that gratitude brings me out of the imagined future into the present moment: I’m grateful that today I have more than enough to eat. I’m grateful for the 1927 Craftsman bungalow that is the roof over my head. I’m grateful today for my husband of 30 years. I’m grateful that today it’s raining in Portland, not snowing.

What are you anxious about? And what are you grateful for?

3 replies on “The Inverse Relationship between Anxiety and Gratitude

  • Margaret Marcuson

    Thanks for these thoughtful comments. Vincent, I know I’ve met people who are less anxious about money, but probably not anyone who is not at all anxious. In talking with those who work with families with wealth, I know there is often a lot of anxiety there!

    I saw something about that John Kralik book elsewhere. It sounds fascinating. I know when someone writes me a thank-you note for something I’ve done, I keep it.

  • Rebecca Maccini

    John Kralik was highlighted in Christian Century lately as someone whose life was in a shambles and he decided to be thankful for what he had and everyday wrote a thank-you note to someone who had done him a kindness. This made a positive difference in his life and then he wrote a book about it.

  • Vincent R

    Hello Margaret,

    Your post lead me to some of the following thoughts.

    I would be interested in meeting someone who is not anxious about money. Can one be anxious about having too much money ? Is there a threshold (for each individual) beyond which one is less anxious about money? How does one get to the point where one realizes that one has enough money?

    I have crossed the Atlantic with a wife and three children and no job in late 2009. I have experienced a good deal of money-related anxiety as I looked at our savings getting lower and lower each month. The cards I have been dealt with also include some past events around money whereby I am not sure how these influence my current view on money.

    What an interesting suggestion to practice gratefulness. I am grateful for the support I have found through friends, a wonderful church as well as family to go through the rough seas. I am also grateful that while the savings are gone, I am now on firm ground and the future looks promising for the whole family.

    I have found the story from the Gospel about the “miracle fishing” (Jesus asking the disciples to cast the net again although the night-long attempt had been unsuccessful) to be a good resource. One of the ways in which I understand this story is this: when confronted with a challenging situation, we are called to find other alternatives (maybe even some that seem not very promising) instead of just trying harder.

    I wonder if the disciples faced some “fish anxiety” as many fishermen make their living at night and not catching a fish is for some a dire result (think a whole night’s worth of wage not earned) ? I also wonder if the disciples were grateful that they had a boat that could float, fishing nets in adequate condition and the skills to fish? Was this gratefulness enough to do something which sounded to be futile?

    Who knows ?


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