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How to Appreciate Your Life

FlourishAnyway is an Industrial/Organizational psychologist committed to uplifting and educating others to be reach their full potential.

You Have More to Be Grateful for Than You Think

Frequent complaining can ruin your happy place as well as that of others. Uncover the statistics behind how lucky you really are and how grateful you should feel.

Frequent complaining can ruin your happy place as well as that of others. Uncover the statistics behind how lucky you really are and how grateful you should feel.

ATTENTION

We hereby interrupt all whining, complaining, grumbling, venting, and griping for this important announcement. If you are reading this, you have more to be grateful for than you think.

Ain't It Awful? Entitlement and Inaction of Griping

I get that it's fun to complain. I'm pretty good at it myself.

Venting lets us blow off steam. It can connect like-minded people. On occasion, complaints can even get things done.

Typically, however, griping is about joint indignity and inaction. A couple of folks tisk-tisking and ain't-it-awfuling over something that is entirely fixable. We address each other with shared outrage rather than speaking to the source of our issue.

We gripe about the forces which we cannot change or the things we are unwilling to work hard enough to impact. Grumbling goes on too long. It wastes time. It goes nowhere. We feel entitled to do it.

And as cathartic as it can be to commiserate ... have you ever wondered if you're just muddying up other people's "happy place" with all your venting? Perhaps you're even ruining your own.

We're better than this. (I know I am, and I'm pretty certain you are too!)

Hey, Sour Puss! Replace Griping with Gratitude

I understand how fun it is to complain.  Griping is often about sharing joint indignity rather than doing anything useful to address a problem.  Come on!  We're better than this!

I understand how fun it is to complain. Griping is often about sharing joint indignity rather than doing anything useful to address a problem. Come on! We're better than this!

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Let's Focus on What's Going Right

Yes, there are loads of crappy things going on in the world. (Don't you get me started!)

However, it's all about perspective. If you're reading this, you have some major things that have gone RIGHT for you. I'll kickstart your gratitude by listing five big things because you're a winner and you don't even know it! Life has worked in your favor. Thus, it's time to ponder the glass-half-full side of life, even if just for a moment.

Facts and Statistics, Not Rainbows and Magic Ponies

Let the facts and statistics speak for themselves.  If you're reading this, you've beaten so many odds already!  (But wouldn't it be fun to talk rainbows and magic ponies?)

Let the facts and statistics speak for themselves. If you're reading this, you've beaten so many odds already! (But wouldn't it be fun to talk rainbows and magic ponies?)

Let's Talk Facts

Now, I'm not here to talk rainbows and magic ponies. Let's talk facts—that is, real reasons to appreciate the life you have. Let's look at the statistics so you can see how you've beaten the incredible odds already, and you're continuing to do so every day.

1. Appreciate the Odds of Your Existence

If you're reading this, you've already won life's jackpot. Yep, the fact that YOU ARE HERE is phenomenal.

You Were a Winner Before You Were Born

Competition was fierce in the all-or-nothing race to kick-start your existence. The odds were most certainly against you.

The average male produces 525 billion sperm cells over a lifetime, and the average woman releases a total of only about 450 mature eggs.1 At one time, you were lost in that crowd, vying for the chance to exist.

Talk about being triumphant over the odds! In this very basic way, you were a winner before you were even born.

You've Already Won Life's Lottery

Don't let your whining and complaining be what defines you. Perspective matters, and so does attitude. My dad knows he's already won the lottery in life again and again.

Don't let your whining and complaining be what defines you. Perspective matters, and so does attitude. My dad knows he's already won the lottery in life again and again.

Appreciate the Opportunity to Face One More Day

Every day since birth, you've somehow awakened to face another day. And you should count even the rotten days as a personal victory because you made it to the next sunrise. (Pinch yourself to make sure this is real, you lucky devil!)

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Each day is a new opportunity. However, there are 154,080 people on average who don't get that chance. That's 107 people who die every minute.2 They don't get to see whether their day will be terrific, terrible, or something in between.

But that's not you, my friend. Not yet! You are still kickin'! Woo hoo!

You may not fully realize how much of a winner you really are.

You may not fully realize how much of a winner you really are.

2. Value Your Ability to Function

If you're reading this, you can breathe, see, and you have the use of your hands. Or you have an assistive method—human, mechanical, or electronic—that allows you to function regardless. (If that's the case, then you get bonus points for adaptability and resilience. Cha-ching!)

Worldwide, there are 285 million people who are visually impaired, 90% of whom live in developing countries.3 Major causes of blindness include unoperated cataracts (33%), uncorrected refractive errors (43%), and glaucoma (2%).

Maybe your eyesight isn't as good as it used to be, but here you are, able to read this today. And that's reason enough to celebrate. Woot woot!

Don't Wait: Appreciate It Now

I never fully appreciated the miracle of being able to see until I lost vision in one eye due to optic neuritis, a very painful condition often associated with multiple sclerosis. My color vision was at first reduced to black and white, then after several weeks, it was lights out for me. Total darkness. I didn't know if my sight would return or whether my other eye was next.

As my vision gradually returned, I felt like Double Rainbow Guy (see video below). The sky's vivid color and just being able to see depth again made me giddy with appreciation. Don't test the old adage about not appreciating what you have until it's gone. Feel lucky today, as in right now!

The same is true with being able to use your hands and to breathe. You can either focus on what you don't have or revel in what you do. It's a matter of choice, perspective. It's up to you.

You Gotta Love the Double Rainbow Guy

Use of Your Hands: Common Causes of Motor Impairment

These are conditions that often affect motor coordination, including the ability to use one's hands. Even those of us who didn't win the Don't Get A Major Disease Lottery can find something to feel lucky about.

Illness Or Injury Typically Affecting Motor SkillsPrevalenceCause(s)

Spinal cord injury

12,000 new cases each year in the United States, with about half occurring among young adults ages 16-30.

Motor vehicle accidents, falls, and acts of violence are the three most common causes.

Loss or damage of limb(s)

Each day, 500 Americans lose a limb.

The three most common causes of limb loss: vascular disease (including diabetes and peripheral artery disease), trauma, and cancer.

Cerebral Palsy (CP)

Cerebral Palsy currently affects approximately 764,000 adults and children in the United States.

Cerebral Palsy is a chronic, incurable, and non-progressive disorder that is the result of a brain injury or brain malformation.

Muscular Dystrophy (MD)

50,000 Americans have some form of Muscular Dystrophy. The majority of them are males.

Muscular Dystrophy is a group of over 30 inherited diseases that causes muscles to progressively weaken.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

In the US, there are approximately 400,000 MS patients. More than twice as many women as men are affected. It is most commonly diagnosed during the "prime of life," ages 20-40.

Multiple Sclerosis is an incurable, degenerative, and unpredictable autoimmune disease that involves a breach of the blood-brain barrier. The body's immune system attacks nerves' protective myelin coating.

Lou Gehig's disease (ALS)

About 5,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with ALS. About half of patients die within 3-5 years of symptom onset.

ALS is a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease involving the loss of voluntary muscle action, paralysis, and death.

Arthiritis

Arthritis affects 1 in 5 American adults. Two-thirds of arthritis patients are under age 65, including about 300,000 children.

Arthritis is painful joint inflammation and stiffness caused by the wearing away of protective cartilage. Causes include infection or injury, problems with autoimmunity, etc.

Parkinson's Disease (PD)

Approimately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's annually

Parkinson's is a degenerative brain disorder. Suspected causes include genetics as well as environmental risk factors.

Your life has more sparkle and glitter than you realize.

Your life has more sparkle and glitter than you realize.

3. Appreciate Your Skills and Your Ability to Impact Your Destiny

If you're reading this, you also have skills you probably take for granted. Talk about the possibilities that are open to you when you can learn, reason, and read!

One in five Americans cannot read above a fourth grade level. About half of those who are at the lowest levels of literacy don't even comprehend how poor their skills truly are. They describe their own literacy levels as "good" or "very good."4

But that's not you! This article is written at a seventh grade level, and Friend, you are rocking it!

Don't Let Complaining Muddy up Your Happy Place

Rampant complaining muddies up your happy place and that of others.

Rampant complaining muddies up your happy place and that of others.

Your Choices, Your Destiny

If you're reading this, you made a choice to do it. Each day, we make hundreds of choices, and some matter a lot more than others.

Relish the capacity to make your own decisions because your destiny is in your hands. Examples of pivotal choices include:

Finishing High School

If you wisely opted to stay in school, then congratulate yourself! This choice monumentally impacts the trajectory of your life path, and you nailed it!

A high school diploma is necessary in today's competitive job market. Without it, you're ineligible for 90% of the available jobs in the United States.5 Dropouts earn $300,000 less than their peers who graduate from high school and nearly $1 million less than a college graduates.6

High school dropouts are also 2.5 times more likely to rely on government assistance programs (e.g., welfare, healthcare benefits). Also, three-quarters of the inmates in state prisons are high school dropouts. Encourage every kid you know to stay in school.

Marrying the Right Person

"Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery." - H. Jackson Brown, American author

Was this guy right, or what? Marriage has important benefits for almost every aspect of health and happiness. Even when married people do experience illness, they are more likely to survive and to flourish.7

For example, married people are less likely to

  • require surgery
  • suffer from the flu, pneumonia, dementia, cancer, or heart attacks, and
  • experience violent death.8

Married cancer patients are 20% less likely to die from their disease. Compared with unmarried cancer patients, they also display less distress, depression, and anxiety.9 Similarly, heart surgical patients are three times more likely to survive the three months following their surgery if they are married.10

Marriage can provide both logistical and social support, but it seems that relationship quality is critical in reaping the "marriage benefit." A recent study found that couples with poorer marriage quality—in which both partners felt ambivalent toward the other—had significantly higher calcium buildup in the arteries, a risk factor for heart disease.11 The health risk of a stressful marriage has been compared to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

If you chose the right life partner, that's reason to rejoice! You can tell people that marriage is no ball and chain. It's your lifeline!

"I Feel Lucky" by Mary Chapin Carpenter

4. Appreciate Your Freedoms

If you're reading this, do a happy dance for the freedoms that you have. Those freedoms came at a cost, even if you didn't have to pay it. Appreciate your freedoms and those who helped to secure and keep it.

You are one of the luckiest people on the planet if you

  • have the right to gather, publish, and distribute information without government censorship. Only 14% of the world's people enjoy freedom of the press, according to Freedom House, an American-based human rights advocacy organization.12
  • can express yourself freely through all forms of communication—what you write, sing, Tweet, video, post, paint, and how you otherwise express your ideas and opinions.

Appreciate Your Ability to Express Yourself Freely

If you can freely express yourself, be thankful.  There are so many people around the world who are censored by their governments.

If you can freely express yourself, be thankful. There are so many people around the world who are censored by their governments.

They Don't Have Your Freedoms

Example CountriesHow Their Citizens Don't Enjoy Your Freedoms

Libya

no independent broadcast or print media

Vietnam, Oman, China

netizens are arrested and punished; the Internet is censored

Turkmenistan, Equatorial Guinea

media creates hero-worship of the dictator/leader

Burma/Myanmar

the military regime monitors movement through microchipped citizen cards and restricts movement of political dissidents, women, government workers, and migrant workers

Cuba

citizens must request permission when they want to reside elsewhere, or they will be forcibly returned to their homes

Some countries do not enjoy the First Amendment-type free speech that Americans do. Even India, the world's largest democracy, has been described as struggling with a "free speech crisis."13

A number of other countries ban their citizens from taking unpopular positions such as genocide denial, denouncing or making a parody of the state religion, or disagreeing with the politics of the country's ruler.14

Even if you're narrow-minded, a touch strange, or you don't have your facts straight, at least you have a right to be publicly wrong. (And others have a right to tell you so.) Celebrate the right to run your mouth!

  • enjoy freedom of movement, the right to travel freely within your own country and live where you want.
  • have the protection of a strict double jeopardy provision. Italy's multiple retrials of Amanda Knox might have made you appreciate this protection. Some nations have exceptions to the double jeopardy doctrine, including exclusions when justice commands it (e.g., new evidence comes to light) or for certain types of crimes (e.g., murder).

Be grateful for your freedoms—even those you will likely never need to exercise.

Save Complaining for the Issues That Matter

If you complain about everything, then nothing is really important.  Establish priorities.  Save the grumbling and griping for the things that really matter.

If you complain about everything, then nothing is really important. Establish priorities. Save the grumbling and griping for the things that really matter.

5. Time and Tangibles: You Have What Others Do Not

If you still feel entitled to muddy up others' happy place with complaints, consider that your access to this article means that you have what others do not.

You are in the fortunate half of the world's population with internet access.15 You're on the lucky side of the "digital divide." Among Americans 10% do not use the Internet or email.16 As they increasingly find themselves out of touch culturally, you can be glad that you are not among them.

If you're reading this, you also have the time to do it, and you're likely among the 77% of people worldwide who have shelter from the elements.

A Glass Half Full

Appreciate your advantages even if your time is rushed, the computer and wifi connection are not yours, and you have to read in small snippits.

As imperfect as your life may be, find something in it to celebrate. Negative Nellie, go look at that glass again. Because even if your glass is half empty, there are others who wish they had your glass. A half-filled glass can be plenty good indeed.

Half a glass can be plenty good.

Half a glass can be plenty good.

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