Photo by Andréia
By Ali Hale
Do you love your life? Or do you sometimes feel dissatisfied, certain that you’d be a lot happier if you had a bigger home, better relationships, more money, exciting leisure activities, the respect of your peers…
So many of us keep striving for happiness, convincing ourselves that a new computer game or outfit, a pay rise or a vacation, will somehow bring us closer. Many of us equate happiness with success – and success with money. But plenty of rich people aren’t happy.
“Those with the highest incomes spend more time working, worrying, shopping, taking care of the kids and exercising, and less time relaxing with a book or an uplifting news story.” – The rich aren’t that happy after all, researchers suggest; The Vancouver Sun
On the other hand, you’ll often find people who seem to remain happy, cheerful and positive against all the odds. Perhaps they suffer long-term health problems, or they have little cash to spare for non-essentials, or life has dealt them some nasty blows … but they’re always smiling, and they’re uplifting to be around.
So how can you start loving the life you have, rather than making yourself miserable striving for one that you don’t?
Ditch “Grass is Greener” Thinking
“While the grass may be greener, often it’s AstroTurf®, and all you get is rug burn.” – Ed Weller, Is The Grass Greener On The Other Side Of The Fence?, StickyMinds.com
Many of us have a tendency to think that other people have it better – or that our current circumstances aren’t as good as they were in the past. I’ll confess to this myself: far too many times over the past couple of years, I’ve wished that I could be an undergraduate student again! I had a lot of friends around me, I had lots of free time, and although I didn’t have much cash, most of it was fairly “disposable” – I didn’t have any financial worries.
Of course, I know that I’m forgetting the downsides of being an undergraduate student: like very basic accommodation (having a freezer and an oven makes cooking much more fun now!) And I’m ignoring the internals, like my much greater self-discipline and focus now.
Do you find yourself thinking anything like this?
- I wish I had my old job, where my work was easier (even though the pay was low)
- I wish I was an employee still, not a freelancer; I miss a salary (even though I don’t miss commuting and boring meetings)
- I wish I had a partner, I’m lonely (even though I have more time to myself)
Recognize that the grass will often seem greener on the other side. Rather than concentrating on what you miss from a previous situation, or on what your friends or colleagues have that you don’t, think about what you do have…
Making A List
One great way to focus on all the good things in your life is to simply list them. Grab a piece of paper (or write it in an email to yourself if you don’t have pen and paper handy), and jot down five things that you love about your life. These could be big or small. If you’re really stuck getting started, try checking some of the boxes on this ready-made gratitude list.
Another way to do this is to write down good things that have happened during the past day or week. Perhaps you had a great conversation with a friend, or you saw a wonderful film at the cinema. Maybe you had some time to read a novel for once. Perhaps you got praised at work for a project you’d successfully completed.
Once you’ve figured out some of the great things that are present in your life, make a conscious effort to include these more often.
Stop Buying More Stuff
Most of us have a lot of physical stuff – from furniture to DVDs to clothes. Big companies (who make stuff) and the media (who make money through companies advertising stuff) have a very strong interest in convincing us to buy, buy, buy.
Please give this some serious thought: how often does buying something make you happier? It might give you a brief boost of pleasure – but does it make any real difference to your contentedness with your life? Is a new dress, computer game, kettle or sofa really going to improve your life?
If – like most of us – you have a lot of stuff that’s just sitting in cupboards and closets, start clearing some of it out. If you don’t use it, get rid of it: donate it to charity if you can, or recycle it. Living in a cluttered environment, especially one which induces guilt because you’re surrounded by things you’re not making good use of, will drag your mood down.
And rather than buying more, make the most of some old favourites that have been forgotten. Here’s just a few ideas that work for me:
- Dust off your recipe books and find some new dishes to try
- Dig to the back of your closet and wear something you’ve not worn in a while
- Play old computer games and revel in nostalgia, rather than spending $40 on a new game
- Scour your bookshelves for those books you bought and never got round to reading, and finish them before buying any new books
So, let me ask you again: do you love your life? Why not use the comments section to tell us some of the best things in your life? And if you’ve got any tips on making the most of what you have and being happy with it, let us know those too!