Harry wakes up, white light piercing through his eyes. With difficulty, he tries to look around, but he can’t. It is as if he is bathed in numbness. He tries not to panic and stay calm. But it is not easy to relax. After all, events from the previous day play constantly on his mind. The massive heart attack he suffered made him take note of life and its transience. Until that moment, he never appreciated what he had—the various gifts of life. Today, lying motionless in the hospital, he finds himself fighting for his dear life.
Harry here is but a fictional character. Yet, each of us might be able to relate to him directly or indirectly. Life is fleeting, and in a fraction of a second, everything can change without a warning. This isn’t a revelation, but a well-known truth. Yet, the cruel irony is that we often take life for granted without the slightest fear that tomorrow we may not have all that we have today. Assuming our bodies would function well forever, we seldom pay attention to our health and wellbeing; as if there is ample time, we often put our lives on hold, not pursuing our cherished dreams; as if our loved ones will be always around, we hardly invest time in our relationships; taking our immediate surroundings for granted, we pollute and deplete natural resources, putting our own survival at risk.
Given the limited time we have on earth, we ought to be more grateful for life. But are we as grateful as we should be? More importantly, why aren’t we appreciative enough for the things around us? The social psychology experiment ‘Violinist in the Metro’ offers an insight. In this experiment, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell wore everyday clothes and played in a corner of the Washington DC metro station during rush hours. Famous for playing complex pieces with tremendous ease, the violinist’s concerts always sell out and each ticket costs no less than 100 dollars.
When he played at the station, the outcome was different. Over a thousand passengers crossed paths with Bell that day without even noticing him or his performance. Only a handful of people stopped to listen. This experiment revealed something profound: we could very well overlook something remarkable for two reasons—one, because it is ubiquitous and hence seems familiar and commonplace, and two, because we are seldom mindful, living in the present moment.
So, what does this mean for us? Breaking out of the inertia of comfort and familiarity, the first step towards a life of appreciation is to acknowledge its importance in life. Soulveda brings you five simple approaches that can help make gratitude our second nature.
Being present in the present
When we consciously notice our lives and our external environment at every moment, we pay attention to the sights, sounds, fragrances and sensations that come our way and the emotions they evoke. We realise that every moment comes with a million things to be grateful for, and that life is about finding joy in the smallest of things—the smell of grass, the pitter-patter of rain, the beauty of a flower, or the playfulness of a puppy. Life gives us a million reasons to smile in the here and now, we only need to pay attention to them to fill our hearts with joy.