“When you take things for granted, the things you are granted get taken.” –Unknown
Don’t let life just pass you by. Open your eyes to what is around you. You are here, at this moment—alive. But are you taking things for granted? If you are, it’s time to change all that.
It’s like in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy is told at the end by Glenda the Good Witch that she had what it took all along. That’s like you. You have what it takes, now, inside you. Your journey anywhere starts within. Gratitude is the gift that keeps on giving, and with it, you can find joy.
Yet, taking things for granted can take away that joy. You lose your power and purpose. You don’t stop to smell the roses anymore. You don’t even look at them. You let go of the little things, and the rest goes with it.
But when you experience gratitude and joy, you flourish. You find yourself. You know who you are. You let yourself breathe when you feel the weight of the world on you. You learn to let go and appreciate the good rather than hold onto things that no longer serve you. And all of this is within your reach.
Here are five reasons why taking things for granted can take away your joy.
When you lack gratitude, you may find yourself thinking only of yourself. Your actions may be more selfish. You may isolate yourself from those you love and care about because you only see your needs. This action makes you more self-serving and living for the ego’s fulfillment rather than feeling true selflessness and joy.
When you have others on your agenda, you are less alone and happier. You have support, understanding, and compassion because you are also giving it. What you give comes back to you, in some way. And that is enough.
If you partake in more selfless behavior and see those around you for what they’re worth, you will be more prone to giving a helping hand. Then, you too will know that you’re not alone.
You have more reasons to live for. You have more people to share things with. You have goals that may better serve the world.
With empathy, you can touch lives. Your own life can be transformed by being kind and considerate of those around you. But you can’t do all that if you don’t look at what you have. You have to lead with empathy, not with ego, and you will stop taking things for granted in your life. Then, you can give joy and receive it too.
2. Negative Emotions
According to Psychology Today, lead gratitude researcher Robert Emmons has found that gratitude reduces depression and increases happiness. It is directly related to your mental health and the joy you feel.
This means that on a psychological level, gratitude can boost your moods and improve your overall wellbeing. Dopamine and serotonin are released in the brain, making you feel joy. However, it doesn’t take the place of psychiatrist’s recommendations if you do need medication, but it does aid anyone who tries it towards having a better life.
It’s okay to feel negative from time to time. But when you are feeling that way most of the time, you find yourself joyless and directionless. You lose sight of who you are and what you’re about. Your aims become less about your needs and more about what others expect from you.
However, a simple act of appreciation can change the outcome of your life and emotional well-being. You have feelings for a reason—they are meant to show you what you need. And if you don’t listen to them, they become louder.
Maybe the lessons your emotions are trying to teach you is to stop chasing whatever comes your way and see what you have. Appreciate how far you have come.
Mental health declines when you don’t live with gratitude. You may fall into a depression or find yourself unhappy with what you have. You may be stressed, not living for the right things, or feeling overwhelmed. You may see only your problems.
But if you choose gratitude, you also choose joy. You let in the positive and fix your focus. Your gratitude is your natural mood booster. When you see what you have, you decide to stay. You decide to keep fighting for yourself. You have a healthier attitude and way of being. This helps you overall.
This can aid with depression. This can aid with anxiety, worry, stress, and anger. You can take a step back and go, “Okay, this is what is good.” That is all you need to do to turn the situation around.
Then, you have that good with you in your heart when you make decisions. You look up with more optimism and feel lighter. You don’t have to carry everything that you’ve been carrying. Sometimes, it feels good to set it down and see what’s most important.
3. Insecurity May Brew
If you don’t see your worth, no one can help you with that. It’s up to you to see what you have. It’s up to you to know that you may have imperfections, but that it is not the definition of who you are.
Your flaws are just another feature. They are not meant to detract from you. Your strength derives from your uniqueness in life.
Follow the path that is your own. Don’t compete or compare. Just be yourself. Make a list of not only what you have, but also what you would want someone to say to you.
For example, use positive affirmations:
- I am worthy.
- I am imperfectly perfect.
- I am full of wonder and joy.
- I know who I am.
Add to the list, and you will find yourself more able to withstand anything. Find yourself naming your wins and not focusing on your weaknesses. You summon more strength that way.
You must not take for granted the journey you’ve been on. It’s because of you, not anything else, that you are still standing here. That has to count for something.
You can feel secure by knowing that you have a lot to offer. You can choose to please others or please yourself. In the end, you have to live with yourself. And if you can do that, you’ve won.
Then, your emotional well-being will no longer suffer. Appreciation creates authenticity. Do not be focused anymore on being someone you’re not. Listen to who you are and find some value in that. That is where you can find joy.
4. Resilience May Be Stifled
What have you achieved lately that you can be proud of? Do you see your power in doing so and that anything is possible?
Resilience may be stifled if you don’t see the good that you have to offer, the tools you have around you, the people you can count on, and the opportunities available to you.
If you decide to keep going, find some reassurance in knowing that you can be imperfect and still follow your path and make a difference.
What decisions have you made lately where you were not afraid? Are you trusting or living in fear?
Greater Good Magazine at Berkeley explores the idea of gratitude through hard times as a “psychological immune system.” Gratitude acts as a shield towards what we are going through, as we become more resilient over time.
Think about the ways you have succeeded in life already, what you have to give, and use that as a shield.
See what’s around you, and that can make you realize that despite struggle and hardship, you’ve got this. You can do this. You can master this. As the poem, Invictus by William Ernest Henley goes, “I am the captain of my soul.”
If you are struggling, remember that others would easily trade places with you. It doesn’t mean that the road you walk isn’t difficult. It just means that you should appreciate what you have before it’s too late.
Nothing can shake you if you know what you have. That is truly how you find some meaning in life, no matter what. That’s how you let in the joy.
5. You’re Less “in the Moment”
When was the last time you watched a sunrise or sunset? When was the last time you really felt the rain? When was the last time you smiled at a stranger? When was the last time you really felt something—really felt alive?
If it’s been a while, it’s time to tap into the moment. Make it count. Because right now is all you are promised, and you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. You only know what you can give right now.
If you take things for granted, you are less “in the moment.” You are less present. You miss out on the things that matter and the people, places, events, and things that are happening because you’re not appreciating them. You miss out on the joy from the simple things.
When you’re taking things for granted, there are consequences—the memories that could have been made fade away, the people you could have held close leave your side, and the opportunities to be your bravest, best self go away. That’s because you must choose to be here.
This is about mindfulness. Psych Central discusses how gratitude is about being mindful, observing yourself without judgment in anything you go through, and learning to show yourself some grace.
Gratitude is a meditation you can do each day starting with a simple gratitude list. What do you have right now that you can use? You can also ground yourself—focus on your five senses and notice the little things you were missing before.
Living in the moment brings you what you need. You see clearer if you take the time to feel each moment. You can find gratitude in each situation, even for just being here.
It doesn’t mean it will be easy. It just means that you were here, and people will know it by how you lived your life. It doesn’t solve everything, but it’s a start.
So, stop looking away from the sunrise and sunset. Stop walking so quickly past the scenic views. Stop ignoring those who love and depend on you. It’s all happening, right now. That’s the reason gratitude works. It keeps us sane. In all the world’s madness, we know who we are because we experience that joy. That joy is yours too.
You can have joy today. Just find gratitude rather than take things for granted. Then, you will have what you need. That’s when life happens—that’s when you wake up and feel at your best because you know what you have and what it took to get here.
The world will keep spinning. But if you stop and take a look around now and then, you will see all you have.
More to Remind You to Be Grateful
We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.
The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.
Table of Contents
The Importance of Living in the Moment
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha
While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.
Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:
By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being.
Improve Your Relationships
Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?
Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.
How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.
By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.
You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier.
Why Do We Worry?
Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.
When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.
Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.
Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.
3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment
Step 1: Overcome Worrying
In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:
Calm Your Mind
When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.
The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.
In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.
Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems
Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.
People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.
If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.
Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment
In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.
Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.
You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.
If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.
Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past
None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.
So how do most people cope with painful emotions?
By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.
In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.
Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.
A Wandering Mind
From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.
Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.
Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities.
Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future.
Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.
Step 3: Practice Mindfulness
So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?
Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.
The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.
When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality.
You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.
This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.
To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.
If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.
You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.
Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.
Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.
You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.
This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.
If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article:
While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.
You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.
Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)
Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?
Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?
Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.
You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.
In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.
You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.
Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.
The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.
Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss.
So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:
- Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
- Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
- Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.
You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating
Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.
Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.
You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.
Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.
Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.
Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.
The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.