I threw my back out. After a busy week of walking around London with a heavy bag, my muscles had been feeling a little strained. One quick, awkward lift of my bike while out on a cycle and my back was gone. Tensed up, painful and hard to move. I hobbled home and went straight to bed. I had just been defeated by my own body.
It happens to everyone. You’re running around living life, thinking nothing of your daily routine when an accident or illness strikes. You break a bone, catch the flu or (in my case) pull a muscle. All of a sudden the good health you took for granted has been jeopardised. The simple things you could easily do (cooking food, taking a shower, drinking coffee) are now monumental tasks and you curse yourself for ever thinking you were invincible. You can’t do anything about it and you’re going to have to sit tight until you feel better.
This is very similar to what happens in many other aspects of life too, where we take our regular day to day lives for granted. The roof over our head, the food on our plate, the time spent with our loved ones. We live in an incredible time where nearly everything we want is at our fingertips, yet we’re still dissatisfied and constantly longing for more. We forget about the little things, the things that seem unimpressive, menial or “normal”. But what happens when we lose them, either temporarily or forever? As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. That’s when you start to see what truly matters to you. Not the status or possessions you think you desire - but the experiences, abilities, emotions and people that bring you real happiness each day.
In order to conquer this, a simple act of gratitude is the key. The ancient Stoics would practice gratitude by deliberately picturing the loss of things they held dearly, even going as far as regularly contemplating their own death (memento mori). Imagining life without the health, people and possessions we have is a big step in beginning to appreciate them. By doing this, we can begin to see what truly brings us happiness in our lives.
“Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours.” - Marcus Aurelius
Tonight, before you go to sleep, write down 3 things that you often take for granted but are genuinely grateful for in your life. This simple act will help you appreciate what you have that others might not, as well as clear your mind and lower your stress levels, leading you to a greater sense of calm as drift off to sleep.
Life is too short to worry about the things we don’t have, and more often than not, what brings us real happiness is right in front of us. It’s how we look at it that makes the difference.