How to Appreciate This Moment and Stop Wishing Things Were Different
I woke up this morning wishing this day were more exciting or at least different. The skies were dark; all I could hear was the sound of rain beating on the windows. Another day of rain—tiring and depressing.
My mind started drifting to sunny, sandy beaches. I could just laze in the sun all day and do nothing else. That would be fun. I’d enjoy the brightness and warmth of the days.
My next thought was: how would living in this exotic location make my life any different?
I’d wake up by the ocean, breathing fresh air and basking in the sun, instead of sitting in artificial lighting in cold grey weather. But what’s going to happen next?
I’d need to eat and drink, do something with my time, interact with others and then go to sleep—the same things I would do anywhere.
Is my (your) life going to be that different in a warmer/cooler place … a bigger/smaller, newer/older home … a better job, relationship, or body?
How is an outer, more exciting, or varied environment going to change how we live our days?
Does different mean better?
Everything has its appealing and not so appealing side. The most beautiful and exotic places can suddenly become unsafe due natural disasters or political unrest.
I’m sure there is someone, somewhere, wishing they lived here. They’d enjoy the romantic and cleansing aspects of the rain that I’m complaining about.
Let’s assume though that I found the best place on earth, let’s call it heaven on earth, what would I do there that’s different from what I’m doing right now?
What would any one of us do if we had different life situations? What would happen if we lived in a different place, did a different job, or met a different group of people?
Let’s take it a step further and say we had a more supportive and loving family than the one that gave us life (just for assumption’s sake).
The honest answer is: none of the above would matter—in the long run.
Every change brings with it a wonderful feeling of newness and aliveness. And there is nothing wrong with that. But the newness wears off, no matter how great it is. And the exciting turns into ordinary.
We still have the same needs, no matter what our environment looks like. Let’s have a look at some of these needs.
Whether we’re in the most luxurious place or our everyday homes and jobs, we have basic needs that we need to meet on a daily basis.
We all need a certain amount of sleep. Does it matter if we sleep in our bed, a bed in a hotel room in some exotic location, or a sleeping bag in a tent?
As long as we have a safe and comfortable sleeping place, we will sleep. The body doesn’t care.
We need to eat. No matter how different the taste of food is, our insides will take it, process it, digest it, and turn it into fuel. It can be a $1 burger or $10,000 beluga caviar. The digestive system doesn’t care.
We need to drink. And as long as it’s clean water, we are alive and well. Everything else is a variation of this tasteless nectar of life.
We need to wash and bathe. Access to running water greatly enhances our sense of wellbeing. Whether it’s flowing out of old pipes and cheap faucets or fancy gold plated fixtures doesn’t really matter.
We need to move. Walking is walking. It doesn’t matter if you’re walking in your neighborhood or strolling down a fashionable street in a city far away.
Running, climbing, sprinting, jumping and so on are fun—occasionally. We do them for a short while and then we stop. The basic need of moving can be fully satisfied by walking.
We need to do something. We need stimulation to satisfy our relentless curiosity, and innate desire to grow. We need to work with our hands, and use our minds. We can read a book, listen to music, bake a cake, paint, or learn something online in most places.
We need interactions and connections. People are people wherever we go. We may have different cultures and languages, but at the heart of it all is a desire to live in peace and harmony with life and the people around us—no matter where in the world.
We need to sit down and rest. Does it matter if we’re sitting on a worn-out sofa or a lavish leather couch? If it’s comfortable, our spinal cord doesn’t care that much.
If you agree with me so far, we can safely say that no matter where we live or what we do, we’re trying to satisfy the same needs. Change in scenery will be fun for a while but then the novelty wears off and we become bored again or wishing for something different.
We can conclude that different is not better or worse. It’s just different.
It’s not the environment that makes a difference. What matters is how we feel about and how we look at our lives.
How can we appreciate the sameness of our moments?
To appreciate something is to notice and see the goodness that it brings to our lives.
There are two ways to get us to appreciate everyday experiences. They are at the opposite ends of the living spectrum.
I. Birth: Find the newness in everything.
Think of everything we do as brand new. To put this into practice, let’s do a fun exercise for a few minutes.
Imagine that you have a short-term memory glitch. You can’t remember what you did a few minutes ago, or things that happened in the last ten years or so.
What would that mean to your daily experiences?
You wake up in the morning and can’t remember anything that happened recently. Your set of long-term memories and skills are there to help you. You know how to shower and how to feed yourself.
How would your breakfast taste? And what would you have for lunch if you can’t remember what you ate for breakfast? You could eat the same food three times a day, and every time it would feel like the first time.
Every time you walk down the street, it’s brand new and exciting. You don’t remember that you walked there before.
If you can’t remember, what would you eat, what would you drink, what would do, where would you walk?
This is living in the moment. If we live in this fashion, we realize that we repeat everything. Yet it can all be new, if we remove the attachment to our memories (selective interpretations) of the past from our minds and focus on the moment and what we’re experiencing.
Thinking and acting with the view that this moment and what it brings is new will get us to enjoy and appreciate it more.
II. Death: Everything will end.
Another way of consciously choosing to focus on the uniqueness of this moment and experience is to think of it as if it were our last one.
We can think of every meal we have as our last. How would we experience it differently?
If this were the last day you’d live in your house, how would you feel? How would you look at your house? At your neighborhood? At your furniture?
We tend to appreciate things more when we’re about to let go and say goodbye. So we can harness this tendency to appreciate what we have more, while we still have it.
Every moment is a birth of something new and the death of something old. We can appreciate what we have in each moment. And if the genuine desire to pursue something different arises, we can move in that direction, knowing fair well that the new direction is not better or worse than the previous one—just different.
With every moment that passes, we grow one moment older and wiser—if we’re lucky to still be here, for this moment, the one after and the one after.