Whenever we’re tempted to fret over what we don’t have, we need to find gratitude for those things we do have.
My supervisor, DJ Serious, and his wife are expecting their second child together. They recently had an ultrasound done, and learned that their baby daughter will soon have a baby brother. Yet a sobering scenario played out in that same ultrasound lab. A mother had brought her little girl in to have an ultrasound done too. She found out that her little girl had cancer.
The little girl cried. DJ Serious had to put his head down to keep from crying himself. I almost cried when he told me. Such is the challenge of being human sometimes. Our hearts have a hard time handling such emotional extremes in a matter of seconds.
The ultrasound experience made DJ Serious and his wife even more grateful for the little gift they’ll soon bring into the world. A healthy child means so much more when you witness firsthand how easily their health can be put in jeopardy.
Happiness is a delicate thing. It doesn’t come from one specific place. It can be hard to pin down.
We often associate happiness with things and people we have in our lives. Though when we’re feeling unhappy, we often allow ourselves to dwell on what we don’t have. That can leave us feeling deprived. And, if such feelings take hold, they can depress us.
So we often resort to solving the problem by acquiring more. More money. More cars. More living space. More clothes. More muscle. More friends. More happiness.
Acquiring more doesn’t simply translate into more happiness. Another car often leaves us worrying about how to budget for bigger monthly insurance payments and more trips to the gas pump. A bigger home puts similar demands on our wallets and imposes more pressure on us to keep that home organized and clean. More new clothes makes for overstuffed closets and more laundry. We push ourselves to spend more time exercising when we become obsessed with our bodies. We put ourselves under a hot, bright microscope when we design social media comments to attract positive feedback from friends both real and digital.
Getting more often burdens us with a new series of pressures. It can amplify our unhappiness, and compound the stress we’re already struggling with. That tidal wave of hot air, white noise, and bullshit being spewed by The World only makes things worse. Trying to cope with that constant barrage often causes us to lose sight of the value in what we do possess. We forget the enriching quality of the people we connect with. And the gratitude we should feel for what we do have becomes lost.
Happiness is about more than getting more. It’s being appreciative and thankful for what you already do have. It’s also being grateful for what you don’t have. For realizing that often brings our focus back to the real positives of those things we do have.
In those moments when you find yourself becoming unhappy as you dwell on what you don’t have, take a breath. Change your mindset and change the question. Instead of asking yourself, What would make me happier if I had it? ask yourself, What do I have that makes me happy?
Perhaps, while you don’t look like a fitness model, you’re in good health and aren’t plagued by any major health issues. Perhaps, while you don’t have a large financial safety net, you’re not a slave to overwhelming debt. Perhaps, while you lament not having your dream house, you’re sitting in a comfy home with a weathertight roof over your head. Perhaps, while you don’t have 1000 followers on Instagram or Twitter, you have three epic friends who will always help you with no questions asked. These are things to be grateful for.
Though who am I to tell you what to be grateful for? That’s your job. So go do it. Tell yourself. Write down three things you’re grateful for every morning. They could be anyone or anything. Then ask yourself why you’re grateful for them. Write that down, too.
You’ll find that you have a lot more to be grateful for than you think. You’ll realize you already have a lot of real reasons to be happy. You’ll rediscover a lot of good that you’d lost sight of. And, in identifying things you’re grateful for every morning, you’ll also be setting a positive and proactive tone for your coming day. A good journey always starts with a step in the right direction.
Greater happiness doesn’t await you in things you don’t have. It comes from understanding how the things you do have benefit you. It comes from acknowledging how the people who populate your own little universe enrich your life. And it comes from realizing how you enrich their lives, too.
Don’t wish for more. Don’t fret over what you don’t have. Find value in what you have and who you have. For a greater sense of gratitude, fulfillment, and purpose often awaits rediscovery in those people and things that are already a part of your life.
Reminding yourself of their value is the key that unlocks that door. And any door leading to more happiness is a door worth opening.