“I make myself rich by making my wants few.” – Henry David Thoreau
Have you ever put together a wish list or shopping list of purchases you’d like to make and thought, “Once I have these things, I won’t need anything else?” or “I’ll feel complete?”I know I have. In the past when I was trying to reign in my spending and stick to my budget, I’d make a list of all the things I wanted and say to myself, “Once you get these, that’s it. No more spending!”
But inevitably, once I made those ‘final’ purchases, something else would pop up. I’d see an ad for something, a new clothing line would be released at my favourite store, the saga continues. It was never final, and there was always something new for me to want or to have on my list.
These days, it’s so easy to focus our attention to the things we don’t have. We are bombarded every day with ads, telling us we need this product or that treatment. Even if we’re conscious of it, on a subconscious level it’s difficult to ignore. Especially this time of year, it’s hard not to get swept up in the commercial side of the holidays and think about what thing we still need that comes with the promise of complete happiness.
The thing is, buying something has never made me feel complete or fully happy. Sure, you get a dopamine kick when you click ‘Complete Checkout’ on your cart. But soon – weeks, days, or even hours later – you feel unfulfilled again and are looking for the next new thing. It’s human nature to want more, to strive for something, and to feel like we’re making progress. This is exactly what companies take advantage of when they try to sell us their products.
So, how can we stop this endless cycle of purchasing and wanting more? Practicing daily gratitude is one way. Gratitude has its benefits for everyone (better physical and mental health, better sleep, and better relationships, to name a few). But I think it’s especially important for minimalists, or aspiring ones like me.
Daily gratitude is the practice of intentionally focusing on being thankful for what you have. Not only does it contribute to overall happiness and health, but it helps keep us grounded and makes us feel content with our lives. It’s an essential part of choosing to live with less because it helps us ignore all of those messages that are constantly telling us we need more.
When you shift your focus from what you want to feeling thankful for what you already have, minimalism comes naturally. You don’t constantly feel the need for more because you are reminded by how much you have already. And often the case is you’ll realize that you already have much more than you need.
It could work both ways, too. By practicing minimalism, we’re forced to critically observe our own possessions. Our attention shifts away from what we don’t have to what we do. In this way, we open ourselves up to more gratitude. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be stuck in the ‘need less, feel more grateful’ cycle than the ‘need more, still feel unfulfilled’ one!
Yet to this day, as I work to simplify my life and live with less, I catch myself in my old habitual thought patterns. It’s almost instinctual – like I said, it’s human nature. Which is why I have begun incorporating a daily gratitude practice into my everyday life.
To practice daily gratitude, try naming three things you’re grateful for each day. There are a lot of gratitude journals out there just for this purpose, but I think just holding that thought in your mind and focusing on it for a few minutes each day is enough. I like to think of them at the end of the day before I go to bed, but you could also practice it in the morning to start your day off on a positive note.
It can be anything – it could be the same thing every day, or something new. It could be something small, or something big. For example, today I’m grateful for:
- My general health and well-being.
- A Christmas candle I currently have burning that smells like a fir tree and brings me back to my childhood.
- My courage to commit to achieving happiness and working hard at creating the life I imagine for myself.
What are you grateful for today?
Photos by Kari Shea on Unsplash
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