“By taking the time to stop and appreciate who you are and what you’ve achieved – and perhaps learned through a few mistakes, stumbles and losses – you actually can enhance everything about you. Self-acknowledgment and appreciation are what give you the insights and awareness to move forward toward higher goals and accomplishments.” — Jack Canfield
Why is it so hard to appreciate what we have? Why is it so difficult to be sated with everything in our lives in the here and now? We always seem to be chasing the next big thing. Constantly lusting and yearning after the newest and best I’ve-just-gotta-have-it object, we move from one point to the next on this Hedonic Treadmill that we call life, and we can’t seem to get off.
The funny thing is that, for the most part at least, everything in our lives was once just a wish. We wanted that car we drive today so badly just a few years ago. The house we live was once just a goal. The people or situations in our lives were once just a wish. So why is it that, today, we can’t appreciate all of those things? How come we’re not satisfied with the status quo?
This conversation isn’t a new one. I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly been unappreciative of the things I’ve had in my life. Although I once lusted and yearned for those things, attaining them seemed to remove their luster and their shine. When I achieved my goals, I wanted the next best thing. I was never really happy with the things that I had attained.
Not too long ago, I saw a poignant video that really moved me. The video was originally created by Igor Kalashnikov and was done in Russian. Of course, like any other viral video, it’s since been translated and re-disseminated by a number of people, and rightfully so, because everyone should see videos like this in their native tongues.
The video opens with a helicopter flying up above a car. Down below, a man in a yellow sports car longingly gazes up, wishing that he had the helicopter. As the video pans left, another man in a red SUV is revealed who longingly looks at the yellow sports car, wishing he had that in his life.
As the video moves from one car to the next, it eventually centers on a man riding a bike. He simply wishes he had a car. The video pans again, this time to a man waiting for a bus at the bus stop. Similarly, he wishes he had a bike. But the most moving and touching part of the video comes in the final pan to a man sitting on a balcony looking down below.
The man on the balcony is in a wheelchair. As he gazes down, he thinks about the man walking on the street and wishes he had the mobility to do just that. All he wishes for is the chance to walk again, for the freedom to be able to stand up and walk from one point to the next, something so many of us fail to value.
It just goes to show you how little we appreciate in life. When we stop to think about it, we’re so blessed to even be alive that we fail to appreciate all of the things that are happening in our lives in the here and now. We look past the miracle and beauty of life and all the little things we have, and instead focus our mind’s eye on the things we don’t have.
The food that we eat goes unappreciated until we can’t afford to buy a meal. Similarly, the roof over our heads is unappreciated until we can’t afford to have it and are effectively homeless. The clothes on our backs are similarly unappreciated. The point? We need to learn how to appreciate what we have right now because it can be gone in an instant.
How To Appreciate What You Have
Clearly, we’re not usually focused on what we have. We often focus on what we don’t have. And when we do focus on the things that we have, we zoom in on the problems, making them bigger and brighter. However, anytime we do that, those problems just take center stage in our lives.
While there might be hundreds of ways that we can do simple little things to appreciate our lives just a bit more, there are 10 very profound things that we can do today, right now, to harbor a bit more appreciation towards the things we have rather than the things we don’t have.
#1 — Be Grateful And Count Your Blessings
Gratitude is the pathway to happiness and success in life. The more we’re grateful for the things we have, no matter how little they might be, the more happier and sated we’ll be in life. Why do we have to wait until something is taken from us to appreciate it in the here and now? Learn to be grateful and count your blessings, because tomorrow it might all be gone.
Keep a journal and jot down your thoughts every single day. Write out everything that you’re grateful for. Even if it’s just for the air in your lungs and the heart beating continuously in your chest, write it down. If you can speak, read or write, then be grateful for that as well. Or, simply for the fact that you’re six feet above ground.
#2 — Head To Your Local Homeless Shelter
Find your local homeless shelter and go donate your time. Help to feed the people who can’t afford to feed themselves. Look into their eyes and listen to their stories. They’ve lost it all for one reason or another. Some of them are alone in this world, and others have to care for small kids, and it’s utterly heartbreaking to see this.
If you really want to appreciate what you have, go see how the other half lives. Go witness what it’s like to be in their shoes. Suddenly, your problems begin to dissipate once you see someone who can’t even afford to house or feed themselves. It’s one of the most moving experiences in life to do this and I highly recommend that you go contribute a little bit of your time to them.
#3 — Be Present And Live In The Moment
It’s important to be present and to quite literally live in the moment if you’re serious about appreciating what you have. There are so many miracles that are occurring all around us, that when we stop to actually pay attention, it a complete marvel and a wonder. The simple beauty of life and consciousness is so utterly astonishing that we have to be present and appreciate it.
Take a walk in the park and literally listen to the birds chirping or smell the roses. It’s hard to do when we’re so immersed in our problems, but also a very important step to take to appreciate life. The truth is that life is a beautiful gift. It’s here today, and can easily be gone tomorrow. Don’t take that for granted.
#4 — Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
Sure, it’s easy to compare ourselves to those who have more. It’s quite simple to look to that car or house that we want and allow it to ruin our mood. We beat ourselves up over not having certain things. Why do we need to constantly compare ourselves to other people in this world? Why do we allow that to eliminate our chances for happiness?
I’m not saying that I’ve never done it. But stop comparing yourself to others. There are far more people who have less than the people that have more. Appreciate what you have right now because those small things could also be gone tomorrow. Keep that in mind next time you longingly look at someone else and wildly diminish yourself compared to that person.
#5 — Downsize Your Life Rather Than Upsizing It
Sometimes, in order to appreciate what we have, we have to get back to the utter basics in life by downsizing. Get a smaller home. Buy a simpler car. Instead, use the money you save on experiences rather than the attainment of things. Life isn’t about buying things, it’s about experiencing all the wonder and joy out there in the world.
It’s easy to forget about all of that when you’re constantly focused on paying for a costly lifestyle. Even if you can easily afford it right now, downsize anyhow. Put the money towards your savings or retirement. Help your kids or your family. Donate to a cause you love. Or travel the world to a foreign place and live amongst another culture.
#6 — Ask Yourself Different Questions
Sometimes, the questions that we ask ourselves preclude us from appreciating what we have. When you ask a poor question, you often get a poor answer. Instead, we need to ask better questions in an effort to get better answers. Instead of saying, when will I ever have something so nice? We should ask, what can I do today to help someone less fortunate than myself?
We need to search for ways that we can improve our lives by first improving ourselves as human beings. Appreciation of things shouldn’t arise from some monetary metric. Rather, it should come from the values that we harbor and the things that we can do in this world to make it a better place.
#7 — Visit Terminally Ill Patients At The Hospital
Whether it’s sick children or sick adults, there are people that are dying right now in hospitals close by. There are terminally ill children who haven’t been given a chance in life. When you look into their eyes and realize that you’ve lived such a full life, you feel instantly guilty.
However, this isn’t meant to make you feel guilty for your life; it’s meant to allow you to appreciate what you have. Even if you’re not healthy, you’re alive. Right now, you’re alive. Visit those that are less fortunate and are fighting for the simple thing that so many of us take for granted: life.
#8 — Let Go Of Hatred And Negativity
Hatred and negativity won’t serve you whatsoever. You have to let go of it if you’re serious about any semblance of appreciation or happiness in life. Hatred and anger are negative emotions that heavily weigh on the mind, constantly causing us to replay events over and over again, driving us crazy internally.
There’s almost no way to appreciate the things we have in life when we’re so consumed by the ensuing negative energy created by things like hatred and animosity. There’s no room for it in your life. Let it go. You don’t need to forget. Just forgive. I know it’s hard, but it’s an important step in the healing and maturing process.
#9 — Smile Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
Studies prove that by simply smiling a genuine smile, also known as a Duchenne smile, we can lift ourselves out of depression and sadness, making us happier in life. It sounds like such a simple thing to do, but it’s truly integral to any life that harbors appreciation for the simple little things.
Look in the mirror and smile for 20 minutes per day. Smile a genuine smile by placing a pencil between your lips and holding it there. Think about all the good things you have and all of the wonderful people in your life. Think about all the things you’ve been given that so many others would only dream to have.
#10 — Focus On Your Faith And Belief
If you’re a firm believer in God, Allah, Buddha or even the simplistic power and energy that binds us all, focus on your faith and your belief in that. If you can focus on your belief, you’ll understand that God doesn’t put things into your life that you can’t handle. All of it is meant to serve you, to allow you to grow and mature, and to eventually reach new understandings about life.
The importance of faith is second to none. Believe and it shall be given to you. Seek and ye shall find. Appreciate everything in your life, even the problems, because they were put there for a reason. You can’t have sunshine and rainbows all the time. But when you have faith and belief, eventually, good things will go to pass as long as you don’t give up hope.