I have a pleasant ritual that I do in the shower every morning that wakes me up emotionally and helps me to feel better about my life. This ritual doesn’t involve a special type of shampoo or happiness soundtrack. It’s a trick that I do in my mind to feel more grateful.
What is this magic trick of mine? It’s simple. As the warm water flows over my body, I force myself to think of the times in my life when I didn’t have hot water on demand. I remember the stories that my son told me about the hot water being turned off in Russia for a month ever summer. It still is, as far as I know. I think about the millions of people around the world who still don’t have hot water, and would love to be in my place at this exact moment.
In the shower, ever morning, I force myself to remember that happiness does not come from getting what you want – it comes from wanting what you have.
Humans are hard-wired to make comparisons. We are perfectly happy with our 3-year-old Mini Cooper – until our neighbor pulls into his driveway in his brand new BMW. Of course, it doesn’t help that we are bombarded with hundreds of marketing messages ever day telling us that our lives are inadequate.
There’s a reason for this, by the way. Marketers know that you can’t get someone to buy something if they feel completely satisfied. You have to create an “itch.” You have to make them feel like they are missing out on the good stuff. You have to make them feel jealousy, greed, lust or another powerful emotion.
To fight back, we need to change the frame. We need to learn to focus on what we have, not what we want. We need to learn to stop peeking at our neighbor’s grass.
Gratitude is a habit. It requires us to step away from our natural programming and focus on what we have. Let me give you a few more examples.
Every time I sit down to a special dinner, I think about how amazingly lucky I am. In a single meal, you might have meat from America, cheese from France, spices from India, coffee from Columbia and wine from Australia. A few hundred years ago, the King of England would have been hard-pressed to pull together such a bounty from the four corners of the world.
Have you ever had to sleep on an uncomfortable bed? The next time you do, close your eyes and imagine yourself in first class on a plane. With no engine noise or turbulence, you will begin to appreciate just how comfortable your bed really is.
Happiness does not come from getting everything that we want. It comes from learning to appreciate what we have. This doesn’t mean that we need to embrace a poverty mentality or reject materialism in all of its forms. It simply means that we need to learn how to change our frame. Compared to 99.9% of the people who have ever lived, your life is already amazing.
So, the next time you take a shower, think about how incredible the water feels. Think about the generations that came before you, for whom the idea of running hot water would have been an unimaginable luxury. Remember the millions of people around the world who still do not have running water, let alone hot water.
What are you grateful for? Do you use simple rituals to remind yourself of how amazing your life is? Which ones? Do you agree or disagree that the key to happiness is learning to “want what you have, not have what you want?” Please join the conversation.
Here’s a short video that I recorded on the topic of being more grateful
Tags Being Grateful