Life has its ups and downs, and sometimes we may be down for a while. Maybe the day job pays too little, maybe you’re only doing boring stuff, or that special person started dating someone else, or you dropped your cellphone and it’s broken now… Anyway, lots of things can happen and make us feel bad.
A couple of years ago, in one of these “down moments”, I read one of the most important books of my life: Men’s Search for Meaning. Written by Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychologist that survived the Holocaust, the book describes the daily life in a concentration camp: pain, suffering, hunger, anger, humiliation, and despair… but also the attitude of some victims: they avoided feeling anger or resentment towards their captors, they didn’t drown in self-pity, and they did the best they could to find meaning in that experience.
One day, while reading a passage about how some people in the camp lost their toes to frostbite because they had to work in the winter without shoes (just to come back to a hut and eat soup that was barely enough to survive), I remembered that earlier I complained to my girlfriend about how bored I was with my job.
I felt like an entitled son of a bitch.
Here I was: healthy, young, working at home, with good food, books, entertainment… complaining that things were “boring”.
That, my friends, is lack of perspective.
That struck me hard, but as with any other story, the impression fades away, and I quickly started whining again. With time, though, I found a good way to keep my perspective: gratitude practice.
Gratitude practice consists in keeping a journal where you write down at least 3 things that you’re grateful for on that day. Here are some of my favorite topics:
- People that love me
- People I love
- Living under a roof
- Having the freedom to come and go as I please
- Being able to walk
- Being able to see, hear, taste, smell, and feel
- Being able to pay my bills through my work
You have to let yourself feel it. It only works if you allow yourself the time and space to feel the gratitude. Don’t make this just another item on your todo list. Take some time. Smile.
Bad things will happen, that’s life: dear people may die, you may get sick, you may lose your job… Shit happens. What we can do is to control how we react to those events: we can choose to be grateful for what we have, we can keep perspective.
We don’t need near-death experiences to start giving value to the right things – but only if we stop, breathe, and start paying attention to every good aspect of our lives.
This daily practice can change your experience, your choices, your mood.