“I wish I could …”
“I don’t have ..”
“I am aiming for..”
Do such thoughts run through your mind? Do you find yourself looking forward to the future and the goals you have to chase? Do you wish your life was better than it is today?
If you’re reading this blog, you’re keen about your growth. Therefore, having such thoughts and aims is normal. I have them too.
But, in our quest for success, we forget to recognize what we have in the present. We keep aiming for bigger goals without acknowledging what we have already achieved.
I can bet that you’ve thought about your future at least in the last week. But when was the last time you were thankful for what you already have? No matter what your situation is right now, you’ll find yourself lucky to have certain privileges that other people crave for. But unfortunately, we take these things for granted.
When we achieve a goal or reach a certain standard of living, we rejoice and celebrate. But after a while, the new standard turns into a norm. As per the hedonic treadmill, our happiness and pain are always short-lived because over time we get used to it.
In this article, we’ll go through various things to be thankful for from your daily life, no matter what your situation is.
Why should you be thankful?
You might assume that the purpose of expressing gratitude is to make the world a better place. But, practicing thankfulness provides you many benefits.
1. Increases life span:
When you’re thankful for the little things you have, you feel happier about your own life. Increased happiness leads to a longer life span.
Surprised? Well, I am not making any hypothetical statements here. A Harvard study conducted over 80 years has shown that the happier people are, the longer they live. Researchers spent 8 decades(that’s one hell of a long experiment) tracking different people for various attributes of their life trying to identify patterns. After years of data and analysis, they found a direct relationship between happiness and life span.
So, the more thankful you are, the longer you’ll live.
2. Boosts self-esteem and confidence:
Your quest for goals can make you critical about yourself. When you fail to achieve your target, you feel disappointed. If the same happens repeatedly, you even consider yourself a failure.
Taking a moment to slow down will help you recognize the things you’ve achieved but ignored. For people suffering from low self-esteem, these little wins can go a long way.
3. Helps you sleep better
A 2011 study conducted by Nancy Digdon & Amy Koble showed that people who wrote a gratitude journal each night slept longer and woke up fewer times through the night. Another study proved that gratitude helped increase positive thoughts and thereby helped people sleep faster.
If you’re facing trouble with your sleep, practicing thankfulness and keeping a gratitude journal might just be the medicine you need.
4. Improve mental strength
Gratitude has a direct impact on your mental strength. That isn’t a make-believe statement based on hypothetical facts.
A 2006 study on war veterans showed results, though preliminary, that soldiers who had expressed more gratitude experienced lower post-traumatic stress.
5. Increases your productivity
Have you felt a tingle when you perform a noble act? Though you experience the feeling in your stomach or your spine, it’s your brain which releases oxytocin. Whenever you perform or witness a compassionate act, your body produces chemicals that make you feel good.
When you express gratitude, the oxytocin brightens your mood and helps you get things done faster.
6. Improves relationships
Whether it’s your good old friend or a long term romantic partner, you tend to take things for granted after a while. Small acts of kindness turn into daily expectations.
Instead, cultivate a habit of expressing gratitude for the little acts your loved ones do for you. A few good words which thank the other person can strengthen your relationship and deepen the bond between both of you.
What are the things to be thankful for?
1. Your present
One of the most common areas you ignore when expressing gratitude is your current situation. No matter how miserable you think your situation is, you’ll still have umpteen reasons to be thankful.
Lost your job? Be thankful that you have a roof over your head unlike many below the poverty line
Are you overweight? Be thankful that you’re not handicapped like the person who met with a gruesome accident
2. Your friends: You have people to enjoy good times and share your problems with
3. Having access to technology: If you’re reading this, you either own a smartphone or a computer and most likely both. A few decades back you’d have to visit a nearby library to access the same information.
4. Good health: You’re in a fitness state where you do not have to rely on others to complete little acts of walking or eating.
5. Food to eat: Not everyone has the privilege to enjoy 3 meals a day.
6. A place to stay: Even if you find your bedroom small, you still have a place to crash when you’re tired.
7. Weekend fun: After a long week of work, you can relax over the weekend watching Netflix and sipping on a chilled beer.
8. Education: You had the privilege to go to school and acquire education which today helps you grow in your life.
9. Finance: Even if you wish you had more money, you’re in a better financial condition than many.
10. Your partner: Having a person whom you enjoy meaningful conversations with is something you must cherish.
11. Living in the current time: You’re living in a world of democracy and technology. If you were born a few hundred years ago, you’d experience monarchy and uncertainty.
12. Books: Today you consume information in 2 days, what an average person a few hundred years back would gather over a lifetime. Books are one medium that have facilitated that transfer of knowledge.
13. Waking up today: You saw the daylight today once your alarm rang. Not everyone was as lucky.
14. Beauty of nature: When you look around you may not realize, but mother nature maintains such a fragile balance that makes the world work the way it does.
15. Your brain: You might curse yourself for not being as intelligent as Elon Musk, but you have a fully functional brain that helps you navigate through life without any difficulties. If you feel what you have is inadequate, ask a person facing a mental disorder.
16. Medicine and hospitals: Today, if you’re sick you can visit a hospital within a mile and find a doctor who can prescribe medicine for you. A few decades back, many of the common ailments of today were life-threatening.
17. Clothes to wear: Your outfits that make a fashion statement or keep you warm during the cold are not items everyone can afford.
18. The internet: You can connect with your best friends from a different continent or introduce yourself to an unknown person by sitting on your couch. The internet has connected the entire world together and all it takes is a few clicks to tap into it.
19. Vaccines: Though the pandemic may not have a full-fledged vaccine yet, you have many others that save you from certain death and disabilities like smallpox and polio. Before your brain develops and makes sense of the world around you, your parents have already safeguarded you from serious diseases.
20. Airplanes: A hundred years ago, you’d have to spend weeks or months to access another corner of the globe. Today, you can cross the oceans in a matter of hours. Whether you want to visit a new city to quench your thirst for travel or find a job to make a career, you have an airplane waiting every few hours.
21. Transportation: You no longer have to walk to the departmental store or spend hours on a horse to get to a nearby locality. You can step into a car and drive wherever you want to. If you’re lazy to do that, you can have a cab pick you up right from your doorstep.
22. Supermarkets: What if you had to hunt animals or find berries for your dinner? That’s how your ancestors fed themselves. Now, you can walk into a supermarket, pull a trolley, and load it whatever you want, from diet coke to roasted turkey. Despite having such a privilege, you still complain about the long queue at the billing counter.
23. Restaurants: If you’re tired one day and don’t want to cook, you can walk into a restaurant and feed yourself. You can even turn that into a special experience with your partner if you like.
24. Your parents: If not for your parents, you wouldn’t exist today. Even if you do not have respectful love for your parents, you must know that they took the pain of bearing you for 9 months and then rearing you for years after.
25. Equality: You live in a world where everyone is treated equally. If you feel men and women are treated differently, compare with a few centuries earlier where women only played the role of a homemaker. If you feel you’re mistreated for your color or race, a few hundred years back, it meant death or slavery. Sure, things are nowhere close to perfect today, but they’re far better than the story from the past. For that, you must be thankful.
26. Opportunities you get: You can apply for a job in a different city, start a business while sitting on your desk, or earn money following your passion. The opportunities you have today are endless. All you need is determination and effort.
27. Fun with family: Do you enjoy having dinner with your family on a quiet Sunday evening or watching movies with your siblings? A child who was orphaned at a young age, cannot.
28. Free information: You can access cartloads of free information on your phone, be it the price of the chocolate frosted donut in a nearby shop or the history of a war that occurred hundreds of years ago. These days you don’t even need to click through an article to find what you need because Google is smart enough to extract the answer and display it on the search page itself. A few decades back, you’d have to get your butt off the couch, visit the store and dig deep into a textbook for the same information.
29. The furniture: You’re reading this article on your smartphone sitting on a chair or using a laptop neatly placed on a table. You have cupboards to store your jackets and racks to place your cutlery.
30. Laughter: Every day, you hear a joke which helps you break into a chuckle. Though short-lived, you enjoy a few moments of happiness.
31. Hugs: Those hugs you share with your loved ones not only strengthens your bond but also makes you feel special.
32. Hobbies: Do you like playing the guitar, playing badminton, or gardening? Even if you don’t like any of them, you have other hobbies that you enjoy. Be thankful for having the time and environment to spend time on the activities that you relish.
33. Cup of coffee: Drinking a cup of coffee may have turned into a routine for you, but you savor the flavor of the beans each time you take a sip whether you realize it or not.
34. A bed to sleep: Whether you want to rest after a long day or keep yourself warm on a cold night, your bed and quilt are right there for you.
35. Feeling of hope: Every time you aim for a goal, you feel a sense of excitement about achieving your target. You hope you could accomplish massive things in life. If you believe such feelings make no difference, compare yourself with the intellectually disabled who cannot think and dream as you do.
36. Eyesight: Each morning when you wake up, you can witness the color of the sky and the shape of a nearby building. Your eyes help you see and decipher every object around you. While you take your vision for granted, a person who was born blind wishes he could view the world just for a few minutes.
37. Sense of smell: Do you love the fragrance of perfume and the aroma of fresh cookies? Thank your senses which allow that to happen.
38. Electricity: Whether the clock strikes 1 PM in the afternoon or 3 AM at night makes no difference to your house. You can summon light in your room by pressing a button on the wall. Heck, today, you can even mention, “Hey Alexa, turn on the light.” A few hundred years ago, you had to light up a fire to avoid the darkness.
39. Peace of mind: Wish you had more peaceful moments in your life? Think of people suffering from schizophrenia who suffer from delusions where it feels like everyone in the world is out to get them.
40. Pharmacy: Feeling sick? You can visit the nearest pharmacy and find a tablet for your fever or syrup for your cough.
41. Technology: Today, you can have a video call with your friend free of cost, read books on a Kindle, draw on a tablet, and check your calories burnt on your wrist. If you were born a few decades earlier, your lifestyle would have been entirely different.
The benefits of expressing gratitude in little forms are powerful and long-lasting. People who are thankful experience better physical and mental well-being.
Take a moment to think when will your quest for happiness end if you do not appreciate what you have today? Irrespective of what you achieve, you’ll always have a bigger target to shoot for. The hunt is never-ending if you do not relish what you already have.
Expressing gratitude is one way of rejoicing over your accomplishments. When was the last time you did that? If you cannot recall when, it’s time to be thankful for your present.
S;, Wood AM;Joseph S;Lloyd J;Atkins. “Gratitude Influences Sleep through the Mechanism of Pre-Sleep Cognitions.” Journal of Psychosomatic Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19073292/.
Digdon, Nancy, and Amy Koble. “Effects of Constructive Worry, Imagery Distraction, and Gratitude Interventions on Sleep Quality: A Pilot Trial.” International Association of Applied Psychology, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 24 May 2011, iaap-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01049.x.
Zak, ―Dr. Paul, et al. “How Oxytocin Can Make Your Job More Meaningful.” Greater Good, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_oxytocin_can_make_your_job_more_meaningful.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.