How Can We Appreciate Life More?

After last week’s question addressed death, this week we want to ask about the reverse: how to get the most out of our lives. A key part of being happy is to appreciate the pleasures and the joys of life.

In one respect, this should be easy, since there is so much of which to be appreciative. We live in a golden age, with greater knowledge about ourselves, about the universe, and about the world than we have ever had, as well as having increased ease of access to that information. In addition, we can travel just about anywhere in the world we might want to go, and food and goods from anywhere in the world can be delivered to our doorstep.

While money is important to be able to access these and other benefits of our society and income inequality continues to increase, it’s also true that more people across the world have been lifted out of poverty than at any time in human history.

On the other hand, it’s hard to appreciate what we have when we see all that we don’t. It is human nature to be constantly trying to improve our circumstance in the world, and that means identifying life’s deficiencies and striving to overcome them.

On top of that, it seems like we are surrounded with negativity. The ever-increasingly interconnected world means problems from other places take on greater significance at home. If news coverage is always focused on the problems of the country or the world, from natural disasters to war and political unrest, it can be very difficult to be optimistic about your life.

And yet, it is important for our own mental health, as individuals as well as collectively as a society, that we appreciate what we have. How can we do that, without losing sight of those less fortunate? How can we appreciate what we have without feeling guilty when there are people who don’t have what we have? How can we overcome the negative environment that surrounds us?

How can we appreciate life more? How can we focus on what we have and not on what we don’t?

Related questions: Is happiness the most important purpose in life?What is the purpose of money?How can we maintain wonder?What does it mean to be thankful?What was the best time in your life?

3 thoughts on “How Can We Appreciate Life More?”

  1. I have a virtual post-it note on my laptop that lists things I can do to appreciate life more as well as crowd out the Anxiety I often feel. The list was gathered from books I’ve read, advice from my therapist, and one of my favorite songs. Here is a sampling of the suggestions:

    each day:
    — express gratitude for 5 people;
    — treat 3 existing relationships as if they are new; ask those people questions about what’s going on in their life and truly listen;
    — silently wish people peace.

    — give and you receive an emotional boost
    — cheer others on (a good reminder to me as I used to be an actual cheerleader and I am currently one without all the snazzy moves)
    — remember, everyone is priceless to someone
    — worry only about things you can take action on
    — see obstacles as necessary for success
    — “don’t let the bastards grind you down” (U2, “Acrobat”)
    — recognize a positive event each day; savor that event and log it in a journal or tell someone about it
    — start a daily gratitude journal
    — Remember, “Today is the best day.” (Advice from hospice care staff) On the days that I do feel well, I really should be treating those days as the best days. The best days to show Rebecca how much I love her; the best days to strengthen relationships with friends, family, and colleagues; the best days to live my values; the best days to take care of myself (because tomorrow will be better for that); and on and on and on.

    Reviewing these pieces of advice, I’m realizing only half have to deal with me or my mood directly. In fact, half are advice for how to truly value the people in your life. Also, none of the suggestions have anything to do with my economic situation.

  2. To appreciate life more we sometimes have to simplify it. It is hard to appreciate life if we are always running from one activity, meeting or appointment to the next. Sometimes, that means giving up things that are not really important or making do with less. I remember hearing a story about a man who bought a brand new car so that he could get to work to pay for his brand new car. No one NEEDS the latest tech, a huge house or soccer/ballet lessons. Really, all one needs is a roof over their head, clothes on their back, food in their belly, strong faith and the love of family and friends. We need to work on being grateful for what we do have rather than striving for more. Ask yourself, “Will this really make my life better or will it take time and energy away from the truly important things?”
    Slow down. Take time to be thankful for your life and the people in it. Examine creation closely, noting the intricate designs of the natural world. Involve all your senses when you eat, rather than wolfing down a drive-thru meal between meetings. People who strive for a simple life are often happier than those who try to get, and do, as much as possible.

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