Today’s Resolution: Feel Grateful for the Basics.


For the last few days, I’ve been struggling with a very unstable computer (yes, this is apparently a technical term).

It seems to be behaving itself now, and I am so happy! I take my word-processer, my email, and my internet access for granted, but when they aren’t available as easily as usual, I realize how much these tools add to my happiness and how much they contribute to my ability to work easily and smoothly.

One of the unhappy truths about human nature is that it’s hard for us to appreciate what we have, until we lose it. When we lose something like electricity or running water, or worse, our health, then it’s clear how mightily such things contribute to happiness and comfort.

In college, a friend told me about the “Lost Wallet Syndrome.” “No matter what’s happening in your life,” he explained, “if you lose your wallet, you think, ‘How happy I would be if I would only find my wallet.’ But then, if you find it, you’re happy for about two minutes, and then you’re right back where you started.”

One of my aims with my happiness project is to appreciate what I have, while I still have it. I don’t want to look back, after some loss or some catastrophe, and think, “How happy I was then, if only I’d realized it.”

I have so much to be grateful for that it seems a bit preposterous that I need to remind myself to be grateful—but I do. When things are taking their ordinary course, it’s so easy to take everyday life for granted.

Every time I sit down at my computer, I think, “How happy I am to be back at my computer, doing the work I love.” Now I’ve added a second part, “How happy I am to be at my computer, doing the work I love, on a computer that’s working properly.”

Do you find it hard to remember to appreciate the basics? What strategies do you use to keep yourself in a grateful frame of mind?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in —no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

  • renee

    My 18 year old son’s car started on fire  in our driveway at 5:30 a.m. – thank goodness for kind neighbors who called 911 and rang our doorbell. I was just thinking about how these are the moments we realize what we take for granted in day to day life. The fire could have been much, much worse. No one was injured and the garage and house didn’t burn. I am grateful!

  • Lynne S.

    I have found that what you’ve described is true; it does pay to stop and think about the undramatic things that support an orderly, productive, happy life. But (the opposite of a basic truth is also true…) it can be overdone. I think a source of happiness is having the security and confidence to take some (good) things for granted. I don’t think we should always be thinking about how we could lose something good (which is implied in our gratitude). I think part of being happy takes place on a subconscious level – if we try too hard to bring it into our conscious thought, we’ll destroy it.

  • Heather

    How true when you said you don’t want to look back and think “How happy I was then, if only I had realized it!”  I think that all the time! Want to count my blessings everyday!!

  • Angela Barnett

    Sometimes, when my children are driving me crazy squabbling in the back seat, I try and
    do the last thing I want to do – one of your tricks Gretchin – and think about
    how grateful I am that they were born… which makes me think about them when
    they were little babies, which, if anything, softens my mood. At least it stops
    me shouting.