Before I started this #happier research, I tended to think that gratitude was cultivating an appreciation for what you have and taking time to do that is important, but considering the opposite can be just as important.
In the holiday classic “It’s A Wonderful Life”, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, is given a chance to see the world without him ever being born. Seeing that alternate future fills Bailey with gratitude and inspiration to return to his life anew.
Dutch psychologist Nico Frijda said “constantly being aware of how fortunate one’s condition is and how it could have been otherwise, or actually was otherwise before” engages our minds to recall and imagine those times.
Spiritual practices and academic research also support the value in focusing on less or being without. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims engage in the practice of fasting while the sun is in the sky. Almost every religion places value on silence and solitude. When you ask college seniors to comtemplate the limited time they have left, they report higher levels of well-being and participate more in school activities ahead of graduation.
We assume everything we have will always be there.
Flower petals fall.
Loved ones die.
As Robert Emmons sums it up – “It is a good practice to notice when a particuarly good thing in your life is going to end and not assume it will go on forever. Or just imagine that it is about to end.”