Is it time to appreciate the smaller things?
We live in a world that conflates having more stuff with having more happiness. Everything, from the food we buy to the shoes we own, to the number of followers we have on social media, screams more.
We celebrate people for their accumulation of wealth: compiling rich lists and rankings; we measure the progress of nations by calculating GDP; social media success is measured by the number of followers one has. It’s all about the accumulation of ‘more’- more money, more success, more followers, more everything – and because this notion of more is so ubiquitous we rarely stop to question it. The fact of the matter is, however, that study after study shows that once we have sufficient food, shelter, and clothing, further material gains actually do very little to improve our wellbeing.
Some researchers like Tim Kasser even go beyond this and suggest that people whose values centre on the accumulation of wealth face a greater risk of unhappiness, suggesting that materialism actually undermines wellbeing, perpetuating feelings of insecurity and making us feel less free.
So maybe, with the start of this New Year it’s time to step back and reassess what we value and why – here are a few things that might help you want less and appreciate the smaller things in life.
Practice gratitude and enjoy the simple things: Make a point of focusing on things that you may not normally notice that make your life better, happier or easier. I always think we are so quick to curse our luck when something bad happens, but rarely as quick to acknowledge when things go our way. Get into the habit of looking out for the stuff you are grateful for, it will help you gain perspective and give you the chance to value things that you might otherwise not even notice.
Know the difference between an impulse and a need: Wanting something doesn’t mean you actually need it, in fact it doesn’t even mean it will make you happy. So next time you have the impulse to buy something, question how you think it will impact your life. Is this something that you really need that will really make you happier – not just fleetingly but actually happier? If the answer is yes then by all means go ahead, but if you aren’t sure then don’t feel you have to give into the impulse.
Instead recognise that impulses are not commands, they are temporary feelings like any other- so acknowledge them but know that you don’t have to act on them because they will pass.
Meditate and reflect: Meditation doesn’t have to take long or indeed doesn’t even have to always be about clearing your mind, instead you can use it to simply rebalance, relax and gain perspective. Getting into the practice of meditating even for a few minutes each day will help give you clarity of thought which in turn will help you more effectively assess your needs, values and desires.
Contemplate if the here and now is maybe enough: Our need for more comes from the feeling that the present, somehow, isn’t enough. We put our happiness on hold until we have whatever thing it is we have convinced ourselves will make us happier in the future. As a consequence we may actually lose the ability to see what’s in front of us, in the here and now, that can give us that sense of happiness and wellbeing that we are striving for.
So take a moment to contemplate the notion that actually, you are already good enough, that you already have enough and that you can find happiness in the present rather than postponing it to some arbitrary point in the future when you have more.