How to live happier by appreciating what you’ve got

Not to put a downer on the miracle of humanity or anything, but one of the biggest problems with human nature, is that we’re hard-wired to constantly try to better ourselves.

Take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs below.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: How to live happier.

This is one of the simplest ways to explain the idea that we humans all have needs that drive our existence. And that the motivation to pursue those needs is the fuel that pushes us to achieve them.

But one of the downsides of constantly striving for the stuff at the tip of the pyramid — like money, possessions, popularity and ultimate success — is that we all too often neglect the things lower down.

We forget that at one point in our lives, those things lower down the pyramid were actually the things that we were striving for. And — most dangerously — we end up changing our perspective on what really makes us happy.

Getting a bit deep this isn’t it?

But let’s take it even deeper…

If you associate with any of the below feelings, it’s likely that you’ve stopped appreciating what you’ve got:

  • You beat yourself up for not achieving your goals
  • You’re constantly anxious, even when trying to relax
  • You over-analyse things until your eyeballs ache
  • Never have enough hours in the day
  • Find it hard to switch off

Does this sound like you?

If so, remember that that none of this is your fault. Us humans are wired to strive for perfectionism; even when we know it doesn’t exist.

But the good news is that there are ways you can snap yourself out of the thought patterns and behaviours that are causing these feelings.

We’ve got 5 for you…

Don’t compare yourself to others

How often have you been scrolling through social media and thought: “I’d love to look like that” or “I’d love to live in that house”, or, “I’d love to be that popular”?

When you’re envious of other people, it’s easy to feel like something’s missing from your life. So, whenever these thoughts creep in, take a step back, remember that these people are only showing the very best bits of their life — not the warts-and-all reality — and remind yourself of at least three good things (big or small) happening in your own life right now.

By thinking of your own strengths, your mind stops focussing on your perceived strengths of others.

Celebrate wins

Writers and designers usually keep a “swipe” file of the brilliant work they see in the wild. So, whenever they hit a creative brick wall, they’ll have a quick flick through everything they’ve saved, to use as inspiration.

Build a similar file, but one that contains screenshots of your favourite work and the nice things people have said about you.

And the next time you beat yourself up for not hitting a goal (which probably wasn’t attainable in the first place), have a browse through all that goodness, and you’ll relive all those good feelings.

Smile more

Relentlessly focussing on your next big goal isn’t usually a laughing matter. With your eyes on the prize, your ability to kick off your shoes and see the light in things gets harder and harder.

That’s not to say you need to take life less seriously. Just remember to let a little fun in from time-to-time. The endorphin hit you’ll get is reward alone.

And being able to laugh at yourself — especially at times of high stress — can put things into perspective, and help you see that life’s already pretty good beyond that thing you’re worrying about.

Give back

You want to make a positive impact on the world. But when you’re 100% focussed on your work, it can be hard to fit in time for your friends and family, let alone random strangers.

But shifting your focus away from work now and then can give you a little reality check and make you see how far you’ve come. Why not offer your services to a charity for free, or mentor someone who’s just starting out in their career?

Whatever you do, it feels good to help those who haven’t got what you’ve got.

Stop holding grudges

When someone lets you down, do you ever find yourself holding a grudge? Even if you know deep down that it wasn’t really their fault?

Yet carrying around these negative thoughts and feelings takes its toll. You can become more defensive, less tolerant, and more cynical about people and situations that are really rather innocent.

It’s human nature to have the occasional spat. But instead of holding a grudge, let petty disagreements go and bury the hatchet. You’ll be happier for it.

As Roald Dahl said: “You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

Now wasn’t that a nice quote to end on?