“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”
The very simple truth is that it feels much better to feel grateful and happy for what we have than it does to long and desire for what we don’t.
It’s remarkable how much time we spend in negativity - suspicion, anxiety, longing, loneliness, anger, frustration, etc.
If anybody was asked whether they enjoy their own negative thoughts or corresponding feelings, the obvious answer is of course not.
The question then is, why are our psyches constantly bathing in what doesn’t feel good?
How Social Media Skews Our Experience
Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Lucy Gordon, Alexander McQueen, Lee Thompson Young, Junior Seau, Chris Benoit, David Foster Wallace... every single one of these individuals lives' was made up of circumstances that most people dream of.
Money, fame, beauty, respect, success.. the whole lot of what we're 'sold' as a society in terms of what will make us happy.
All the people listed above tragically committed suicide despite the appearance of extreme outward success.
In the age of social media and extreme publicity, it's so easy to forget what's important when we're seeing how all those around us live.
One of the biggest problems with social media is that we fail to realize that our social media identities do not accurately represent our moment to moment experience of our lives.
We only put the most joyful moments, the pictures we look the best in, and our most exciting days on these platforms for others to see because we have an image we're trying to uphold. When we see how 'amazing' other peoples' lives are in comparison to our moment to moment experience, it causes us to feel as if we're missing something in our lives that other people have.
It makes us think that we should strive for what we see others outwardly possessing.
It takes the focus of our attention from what we do have, to what we don't have; a recipe for emotional disaster.
How Gratitude Can Change Our Lives
One of the ways in which we can grow out of our usual negative associative thinking is through replacing it with gratitude.
If we take a look at the way we live, we can clearly see that we generally only feel grateful when good things happen to us (and limited situations like Holidays or hearing about other people’s difficulties).
We take everything we currently have for granted because we’ve grown accustomed to having it.
The Importance of The Placement of Our Attention
We live in the direction of the flow of our attention.
I have a very simple exercise for you:
Take just a moment to bring your awareness to your arms and hands. From the top of your shoulders all the way down to your fingertips.
These arms that are filled with life and do an immense amount of work for us at almost every moment of life.
How much more difficult it would be to turn off your alarm, open a door, brush your teeth, put on your shoes, drink water, drive, put your pillow in the right spot, open a laptop, turn the pages of a book, get a glass of water, change your child’s diaper, etc., without arms or hands?
Our bodies would quite literally have to learn a new language - a new way of operating.
What you’re hopefully feeling now by just connecting with how valuable your arms and hands are is gratitude.
The way we bring our attention to the circumstances and events of our life makes up our reality. The words we use to interpret the world around us creates life as it shows up for us.
When we take steps to begin replacing our usual associative thinking with thoughts about all that we have to be grateful for, the quality of our lives begins to change.
The positivity that results can quite literally penetrate the core of our psyche and our entire outlook on the world.
When we look at any given situation and see either an ‘opportunity’ or an ‘obstacle,’ a ‘problem’ or merely something that has to be dealt with, something to be grateful for or negative about, we’re making a decision at that moment about what our reality will consist of.
As we continue to see the situations we’re presented with in the same manner over and over, we start to believe that what we think is the absolute truth.
If we can begin to stop listening to our initial automatic response to what life presents us with, we can learn to choose how to view and feel about the circumstances of our lives.
If we can intentionally bring the experience gratitude into each day, everything will change.
Research has shown that keeping a gratitude journal is one of the best ways to bring that quality of emotion into your everyday life.
The Circumstances of Our Lives Do Not Determine Our Experience
We all know that gratitude ‘feels good.’
We all long to have a life that we can be grateful for, but the truth is that the circumstances of our lives will never make us grateful.
No matter what amazing things happen in our lives, we will eventually take for granted everything that this beautiful world gives us the same way we take for granted all that we currently have.
Unless we start realizing what we have to be grateful for, right now, in this moment, we will never enjoy gratitude on a consistent basis.
This requires effort – making a practice of thinking differently every single day.
The Clear Result of A 75-Year Happiness Study
For over 75 years, the Grant and Glueck study has been tracking the physical and emotional well being of two distinct groups of American males.
There was one overall question the study wanted to have answered – What keeps us healthy and happy as we go through life?
Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development (of which the Grant and Glueck study is a part):
“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
The next question is, what factors, behavior and characteristics lead to good relationships?
Depth. Feeling love. Importance. Gratitude. Appreciation. These are the factors important in determining the quality of relationship and thus the quality of life.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
Performing random spontaneous acts of kindness, no matter how big or small, are essential for maintaining and strengthening relationship bonds.
Taking time to connect in a meaningful way is very different than talking in passing.
Focusing on experiences with Loved Ones heightens our sense of being loved and accepted. Bringing these moments to light helps recreate the love we felt at those specific times.
Change in the relationship in terms of trying new things (either together or for one another) helps foster the feeling of growth. This is how you avoid feeling stagnant / too comfortable with one another.
Doing things that make your loved ones happy, will, in turn make you happy.