" Happiness is not about having what you want; rather, it is about wanting what you have." -Anonymous
This has been one of my all-time favorite quotes for years. For me, it is an essential key to happiness. "Wanting what you have" counters the constant pressure in our culture to have more and bigger and better, which leads us to think about what we don't have, and to believe that we will only be happy once we finally have it, whatever it is.
I live in a 900 square-foot home. In my travels around Monmouth County, I frequently drive by 6,000+ square-foot mansions on expansive manicured lawns. Occasionally I catch myself wondering what it would be like to live on one of those pristine estates.
We know, however, that when we compare ourselves to those who have more, we feel worse, and when our comparison is to those who have less, we feel better. It is human nature. So when I notice that negative thought pattern, I make a conscious effort to think about wanting what I have. I think about how cozy my little cottage is, how charming it is after all the love I've put into it, and how it reflects my personality. I think about how my postage-stamp-size yard is just big enough to afford me hours of gardening pleasure but not so big that it feels like a chore.
For me, wanting what I have is a form of gratitude, and gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Research on the psychology of happiness has found that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits, including:
-More joy, optimism and happiness
-Improved coping strategies
To experience the benefits of gratitude, all you have to do is practice it until it becomes a habit. The most common practice for increasing gratitude is to keep a journal in which you write down 3 to 5 things you are grateful for. It is not necessary to do it daily, but connecting it to something you do regularly will help you remember to do it. Of course, in addition, you can always practice "wanting what you have".
You can thank me later if you want. Happiness studies confirm that it will make you feel good :-)
For more information on strategies for increasing happiness, see my happiness group, starting March 2.