Remember when you first started dating someone new, got that job offer, or moved into your new place (insert other exciting life change here) and you were feeling on top of the world? That feeling can be addictive and is what motivates many people to continuously chase “the next hit” with achievements, buying things, or new relationships.
While these exciting changes can often contribute to a short-term burst of happiness, they seem to lose their appeal after some time has passed. This is because our brains are hardwired to become adapted to any life changes that occur with research demonstrating that people’s happiness levels usually go back to baseline after some time has passed since the change occurred. What this means is that we are prone to taking pretty much everything in our lives for granted, which can have a detrimental impact on our moods and our relationships.
What if you could recapture and savor those initial feelings of excitement and happiness? The good news is there are many ways to do that, below are 5 ways to get you started.
1. Savor the moment and practice mindfulness.
Think back to the times in your life when you were the happiest and you’ll recognize that you were often fully present in those moments. When you are fully present, you are able to savor the moment and experience gratitude for it without taking it for granted. Next time you are experiencing an enjoyable moment, practice staying present and savoring it with all of your senses.
2. Practice gratitude.
Practicing gratitude regularly can counteract your tendency to take things for granted and research has demonstrated it can increase your happiness. There are many ways to practice gratitude. Some simple ways to start practicing are to use gratitude journal to write down the things you are grateful for a few times/week or use a gratitude jar to write down something you are grateful for on a post-it note and put it in a jar for 30 days, then read over these notes whenever you are feeling stressed or having a rough day.
3. Acknowledge the positive changes that have occurred over time in your life.
Often we keep striving for the next achievement without realizing we have achieved so much more than we have realized and in the process we end up taking our present life for granted. Taking time to intentionally reflect about the progress you have made can reduce your tendency to take things for granted and boost your mood.
Think back to a time in your life when you were struggling and write a letter telling your former self about your current life. Reflect on the following questions: In what ways are things in my life different now? In what ways have I changed or progressed since that time? What are some things my younger self would be surprised about and proud of me for?
4. Reflect about the things you’re taking for granted from a different perspective.
Write a list of the experiences or relationships in your life you believe you are taking for granted. Imagine how another person that doesn’t have these things in their life might perceive the items on your list. You can also reflect about would happen if a particular relationship or experience wasn’t in your life anymore and how that would impact you (which is an exercise called Mental Subtraction).
When we see things we take for granted through another person’s eyes or we imagine how we would feel if we no longer had these things in our lives, it can offer a fresh perspective and increase our appreciation of our current relationships as well as experiences.
5. Plan novel experiences and fun activities to look forward to.
Introducing some novelty into your life can help reduce your tendency to take things for granted. Plus research shows that looking forward to the activity can promote even more happiness than the activity itself. Think about what activities, hobbies or exercises used to bring you joy and excitement that you haven’t done in a while. If you’re not sure where to start, consider taking a fun class where you try a new activity or try thinking about activities that brought you joy (regardless of outcome) when you were younger.