How to Be Thankful for What You Have Already

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“Be thankful for what you have, you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

 —Oprah Winfrey

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we don’t walk around most of the time thinking about how fortunate we are for the good things going on in our lives—like being alive, for example. Sometimes, I experience moments of realization when I recognize just how lucky I am to have health, family, friends, and so many other good fortunes. It’s like a cool wave of gratefulness washes over me, cleansing me of my worries, stress, and problems. This week, I had such an experience, especially with thanksgiving coming this week. When thinking about what I am thankful for, my mind was filled with thoughts about how so much of my life is going great. I’m generally not one to complain, but sometimes I find myself lost in the negatives of life, losing sight of the good. Especially when I turn on the news, I find myself feeling a lot of despair. All of us have struggles that seem impossible to bear at times; but we also have blessings that we can easily overlook. We get so used to our circumstances that we lose sight of the big picture and forget how good we really have it. That’s why it’s important to take a moment to appreciate what you have, what you’ve achieved, and how far you’ve come. After all, what’s the point of all the beauty in our lives if we don’t take a moment to look around and truly see it?

I appreciate the ocean, which I can see from my bedroom window.

I appreciate my health and my ability to walk.

I appreciate that I have delicious food to eat.

I appreciate that I have a home.

I appreciate my daughters.

I appreciate being alive and experiencing it all.

As I think about everything I have to be appreciative of, I get curious: Why are such moments of gratitude so rare? What stops me from tapping into this state of mind more often? As humans, we’re always striving for the next thing, looking at what others have that we don’t. We get so consumed by what we wish we had, that we take for granted what we have already. We focus on being, doing, and having more than what’s there already. When we focus on more, we become blind to everything we already are. This leaves us chasing the next best thing, which we tell ourselves will make us happy. But what if we could be happy with what we have already? And what if the path to happiness is appreciating what we have rather than chasing after more?

I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes have a hard time appreciating the little things—especially when I’m going through tough times. However, I suspect that most of us lose sight of our blessings not because of trauma, but because we’re focusing on everything we want but don’t have. If we want to deepen our appreciation for what we have already, we must remind ourselves of what we’re grateful for, even if it seems silly.

The fact is, you’re here right now. Your eyes have the ability to read this article. And while they do, your autonomic nervous system is regulating your bodily functions, including your breathing and heartbeat, all without your conscious effort. There’s no limit to what we can appreciate if we’re paying close attention. So, what do you appreciate in your life? What are you most grateful for?

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Have a tough time putting yourself first? Still not sure how to take action to live the life you always dreamed of? Check out my latest book, “When It’s Never About You.”

Talk soon,

Dr. Ilene

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Showing 3 comments
  • Farhang Babkayee

    I always love your articles and posts, Thank you for your wisdom

  • Chris G'Froerer

    Thanks Dr. Ilene for this timely reminder of gratitude. With Christmas just around the corner, it can be a time for worrying about what to buy loved ones, what to cook for Christmas dinner and also to focus on family issues which often raise their ugly heads at this time. You are right. We can get bogged down in what we don’t want, or want what we don’t have. Practicing gratitude for me is a daily ritual and I recall my first Thanksgiving when I lived in America in the early ’80’s (as we don’t really celebrate it in Australia). I was so impressed with the ritual of holding hands around the table with the delicious bounty in front of us and each of us said what we were grateful for. It was a defining moment for me and gratitude has helped me to find the gift behind many troubles and tribulations. You just have to look because there is always a gift for us!

  • Pete de los Santos

    I’m so impressed by your message on gratefulness, and shared free of charge at that! Truth to tell, when I first came across your article about a topic, the title of which now escapes me, I thought to myself, “Oh splendid!; she truly nailed it ! But wait a minute, what’s in it for her? Surely, I muttered to myself, “There must be a catch somewhere!” Well, used that I was to the publicity gimmick, of gurus advertising their so-called transformational, self-help courses, I couldn’t help thinking it was another of those money-making programs. I was totally wrong!

    After reading this article on Gratefulness, I have confirmed that you, Dr. Ilene, have your heart in the right place. You’re doing all this free sharing of your brilliant, well-thought- out insights as your way of giving back to the community, yes your concrete way of expressing your gratefulness for all the blessings that you have received, instrumental to your self-actualization.

    Thank you very much, Madam, and may your exemplary example set a domino effect.