In Buddhist psychology, we suffer when we’re unhappy with what we have, or where we are in our lives. Suffering comes from the constant longing or attachment we fall victim to, whether it’s material things, trying to get from others what we want, or from our basic (negative) thoughts and emotions. Appreciation brings contentment, which takes the edge off of trying to “get more,” whether that’s money, success, attention, material things, or whatever.
Wanting what you have is a constant meditation in progress. It’s easy to overlook what we have – materially or not – in our lives when we get caught up in day-to-day living, or in our dissatisfactions or unhappiness. Practicing gratitude on a daily basis by trying to bring more value to what you already have builds happiness from the inside, rather than looking for it from the outside.
How can you bring more value to what you already have in your life? Consider these areas of your life:
- Appreciation for what you already have, like your life, your health, your social status, or your possessions
- Your work, even if it’s not ideal at the moment, or it’s not in the career you would rather be in
- A relationship with someone else, whether that’s a friend, an intimate partner, or a family member
- The things you own, the experiences you haven been afforded, or to what you already have
- The relationship with yourself: does your “striver” push you to be more, do more, and achieve more?
Developing more value from what you already have is an antidote to constantly striving to get what you don’t have. Can you give more in the relationships you are in now? Are you holding back and not allowing certain relationships to develop and grow they way that they really could? Do they deserve more investment from you?
With relationships, think about ones that you currently have that haven’t received the kind of attention that they need. Maybe you’ve been busy, or maybe there are underlying issues or things not talked about. Can you bring more to them – attention, love, communication, empathy, or time? Can you bring the “best you” to them, and if not, how come? What’s blocking you?
As far as material “stuff” goes, I read an article last week on this Japanese “declutterer” named Marie Kondo. She goes into people’s homes and organizes them by disposing of objects that don’t bring the owner any joy. I thought about how many things I own that bring me joy, and how I appreciate them so much more when they’re not surrounded by other things around that don’t produce that same joy for me. I feel psychologically more tranquil and less “mentally cluttered” when my environment isn’t cluttered either. It helps me appreciate what I do have that much more.
I think a lot of happiness is about contentment, and when we’re content with what we have, and who we are, we don’t get lost in a lot of the shuffle of trying to gain more, and be more. Bringing more value to what you have enriches those things, people and experiences you currently have, and makes for a richer life.