Being told “You should be grateful for what you have,” is one of the most irritating things you can hear when you’re unhappy with what you’ve got. But actually, it’s one of life’s most valuable lessons – you just have to work out how to make it work for you.
It is possible to teach yourself gratitude. You can learn to let go of yearning and bitterness about what you don’t have and train yourself to notice the things that you do. Here are five ways to live in gratitude, every day.
1. Compare down, not upThey say comparison is the thief of joy, but that’s only if you’re comparing with those who are better off than you. Try thinking of those people who struggle every day and never get by, who don’t have a roof over their heads or enough food to eat. By remembering that there are those less fortunate than you, you’ll remind yourself to be grateful for what you have.
2. Give a little time to gain a lot of perspectiveA powerful way to get a fast-track lesson in gratitude is to immerse yourself in the lives of others less fortunate than you. We’re not suggesting that you give up your day job, but volunteering at a worthy organisation can provide some much-needed perspective on life, even if you only do it once.
3. Find joy in the things that cost you nothing (or very little)The things that really matter in life don’t cost you anything. Spending time with your family or enjoying good health are first among these. But little, everyday things, like a glass of wine after work, or your favourite meal and television show, or the view of the sunset from your lounge window should uplift and motivate you.
4. Let go of your preoccupation with statusIt may be your dream to own an Audi or live in Camps Bay or own a pair of Diesel jeans, but for many South Africans these dreams are unattainable. Try to remember that a roof over your head, a way of getting yourself from A to B and having clothes on your back are blessings in their own right and everything else is just status.
While you can obviously work towards improving your levels of comfort or lifestyle, remember that there’s no point in agonising over the labels of status. If you truly believe that your friends and colleagues judge you by the clothes you wear and the car you drive, then it’s your friends you should be replacing, not your possessions.
5. Have goals and work towards themIf you have goals and are working towards the things that you want, it gives you the space to be grateful for and content with what you have now because you know that the things you long for are taken care of, one step at a time. But you have to have clearly defined goals that you are working towards! So if there are things in life that you really want to experience, then start planning.
Keep reminding yourself…Life is a struggle. It’s filled with financial worries, emotional turmoil and concerns about the future. But very few lives are all bad. By choosing to focus on the good things, the positive things and the things that make you laugh, your sense of joy and gratitude will become the prevailing emotion in your life. It will allow you to enjoy the wonderful times more easily and make you stronger for when times are tough. And just like that, being told, “Be grateful for what you’ve got,” becomes far less irritating.