Even when times are tough, most of us know there’s a lot to be thankful for: A roof over our heads, enough food to eat, a loving partner, a sweet, snuggly pet — the list goes on and on. So why do we have such a hard time appreciating what we have?
Long story short: Research shows that as human beings we’re hardwired for negativity, meaning our brains register negative events or experiences more easily than positive ones, and we tend to dwell on them.
That’s the bad news. The good news? There’s actually a lot you can do to stop focusing on the negative and start appreciating what you have. Start with these tips.
1. Get off social media—or at least curate your feed
Social media is one big comparison trap. As you scroll through your social feeds, you’ll be met with everything from sparkly vacation pictures and lovey dovey posts to announcements about career changes and people showing off their toned physiques. At some point, you’ll probably find yourself thinking, Why can’t I have that?!
One of the first steps in appreciating what you have is to avoid falling into this trap. You can do this by spending less time on social media, or simply curating your feed so you’re only met with accounts that inspire you rather than spark feelings of jealousy or not being enough.
2. Practice gratitude
A gratitude practice is key when you want to get better at appreciating what you have. Utilizing a gratitude journal is one of the most popular ways to do this (start with these prompts!) but you can also practice gratitude in less conventional ways. Have a gratitude “buddy” and text or email them the things you’re grateful for every day, or say a few things out loud you’re grateful for in the mirror every morning as you get ready. A gratitude jar is a great option, too.
3. Start living your life the way you want to live it
While envy isn’t a fun emotion, it’s worth paying attention to. If you find yourself feeling envious of your sister’s fun vacation, ask yourself how you can start to prioritize travel. If your self-employed friends leave you feeling resentful of your nine to five desk job, ask yourself if there’s a universe where you can start working for yourself, too.
While this might not be an “immediate” way to appreciate what you have, if you put enough work in, you may find that once you’re living a way that feels authentic for you, appreciating what you have is a lot easier.
4. Utilize inspirational quotes
Inspirational quotes that center on gratitude can be a great tool when you’re having a hard time appreciating what you have. Whether you write them down in a journal or place them strategically around your living space, they can serve as important reminders. Here are a few to help you get started:
- “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” — Eckhart Tolle
- “A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles.” — Unknown
- “Gratitude and attitude are not challenges, they are choices.” — Robert Braathe
- “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” — Maya Angelou
- “The struggle ends when the gratitude begins.” — Neale Donald Walsh
When you’re living in the present moment, it’s hard to dwell on what may go wrong or what has gone wrong in the past. Meditation is one of the best ways to stay present and grounded, so finding a meditation practice that works for you, whether through an app or something else, is an excellent starting point.
6. Give back
Giving back to your community can help you stop dwelling on what’s going wrong and start appreciating what you have. You can find places to volunteer through sites like VolunteerMatch, which can connect you to opportunities that resonate with you.
7. Learn to reframe difficult situations and qualities
While there’s a lot to appreciate in life, there’s no question that at times, things get really tough. So ask yourself: What can you do to reframe the narrative? For example, if you keep dwelling on something negative that happened in the past, try to find something good it brought you—like a breakup that inspired you to move to a new city or led to a great new group of friends, for example.
Or, if you keep focusing on what you don’t like about yourself — if you wish you were more laid back, for example — think about when your anxiety might serve you. Maybe this quality makes it so that you’re always prepared, never miss flights (anxious people always get to the airport early!), the list goes on.
No, it’s not always easy to appreciate what you have — it’s called a gratitude “practice” for a reason. But with enough time and energy, you may find that you’re seeing a lot of good in your life.Next up, if you want to work on never settling for less, let these 52 quotes inspire you.