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Are you taking things for granted?

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 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? 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 a 100 dollars. But, 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 toward 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.

Blinded by negativity, we hardly acknowledge our own accomplishments and start taking everything good that comes our way for granted.


Counting every blessing

Often, we lead our lives focusing on the things we do not have, and therefore, spend our time and energy worrying about how to get all that we want. In this rush to get somewhere, we seldom stop and smell the roses, experiencing, for the most part, dissatisfaction, taking for granted what’s right there in front of the eyes. Not to say that having dreams and ambitions is wrong. But while fulfilling our needs and desires, we could also consciously practice being grateful for what we already have—a loving family, genuine friends, good health, a satisfying job, an illustrious career… the list can go on. Motivational speakers and life coaches recommend the more we focus on the good side of life and practice being grateful, the more this good side follows us, and the more we become appreciative and contented.

Looking at the grass on our side of the lawn

We often waste our time comparing our lives with that of the others. Believing that the grass is greener on the other side, we envy others’ fortunes and resent our misfortunes. Blinded by negativity, we hardly acknowledge our own accomplishments and start taking everything good that comes our way for granted. Instead, if we paid close attention to everyone’s lives and remained objective, we’d realise that each of our paths is laden with crests and troughs, ups and downs. We’d realise that life is not fair or unfair, but an outcome of causes and their corresponding effects. Each of us must face our own battles and overcome our challenges as we progress through life.

Generosity resides more in the spirit and the heart, not necessarily in the purse.


Appreciating the contrast

Life, as we often find, manifests in twos—darkness and light, positivity and negativity, scarcity and abundance, good and bad, pleasure and pain, so on and so forth. One’s dependent on the other. Unfortunately, none of us like to deal with the downside of life. Seldom do we realise that it is this very duality that provides us with a much-needed contrast to become appreciative of the good side of life. After all, it is pain which helps us appreciate joy. It is darkness which makes us aware of the importance of light. It is because of the bad that we value the good. The more we learn to appreciate the contrasts of life’s elements, the more we’d learn to enjoy life and live well.

Becoming more generous

Perhaps the easiest way to becoming more appreciative in life is by becoming more giving, more generous. Generosity resides more in the spirit and the heart, not necessarily in the purse. We need not always give something that costs money, but something that would make someone feel special, like a smile, a loving gesture. In fact, what we’d almost always notice is that even these seemingly ‘little things’ can make a tremendous impact on someone else’s life. This impact we can make on someone else’s life, in turn, makes us feel grateful and appreciative for what we have. What we take for granted is something someone else is praying for. Happiness resides in sharing, in giving a little of what we have to others, in allowing ourselves a little generosity now and then. After all, the payback is equally rewarding—a life of appreciation, gratitude and generosity.

Written with inputs from Shayan Belliappa.

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