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Appreciate Your Life

Stop comparing yourself to others

So here we go with the first of the “ate” posts, and I’m starting with the word appreciate – more specifically, appreciate your life. Dictionary.com says that the meaning of appreciate is “to be grateful or thankful for”. My reasoning for starting with this word is quite intentional because I believe the lack of appreciation, specifically for the life we have, is the root cause of so many of the issues we experience. While some of these issues may be real, I think most of them aren’t really problems at all – we just blow them out of proportion. However, even for those of us going through truly difficult times, I firmly believe that there is still something we can be grateful for.

Appreciate the sun.

Appreciate the rain.

Appreciate that you opened your eyes this morning.

Appreciate the clothes on your back.

Appreciate the roof over your head.

Appreciate the impact that you’ve had on someone else’s life.

Appreciate your life!

The things that we are grateful for don’t have to be big; in fact, it’s appreciation for the little things that can bring the most meaning into our lives.

Why can’t we, or why don’t we, appreciate our lives more??

Unfortunately, our culture in America has made us believe that being content is a bad thing. Marketers constantly tell us that we need more, we need better, we need the newest model of car or gadget, or that we can’t wear an article of clothing for more than one season.

Right or wrong, we compare ourselves and our situations to the people around us. If you let these comparisons affect you in a negative way, it can be devastating to your health and your happiness.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that appearances are just that – you never truly know what’s going on with many people because of the image that they project. One thing I gave up on a long time ago was the need to impress other people.

Although I’d been able to let that go, a lack of appreciation caused me some very dark days during what should have been one of the most joyous times of my life.

I’ve never really liked chaos and I’ve always been a neat person; everything has a place an everything is in its place. I didn’t, and still don’t, like clutter (more on that topic in another post). If you’re a parent, you already know that you can forget about neatness and calm when a child comes into your life!

February 19, 2010 was a special day in our lives, as we welcomed our son. Becoming a parent is a wonderful experience, complete with its fair share of highs and lows – the excitement of this new life, and the struggle of operating on little sleep and figuring out how in the world to provide all that it needs. No instruction manuals for that!

Although I was so excited to be a new dad, in the months that followed his arrival, I really began to struggle. I struggled with the noise and chaos that an infant brings. I struggled with all of the stuff that was suddenly taking over our house – toys, bottles, bouncy seats, you name it.

I became depressed, and began to drink too much to cope. Drinking was my way out, a way to try and escape all of the clutter, both physical and emotional, around me. Isn’t this supposed to be the happiest time in someone’s life? I became more depressed because I felt like I was a bad person for not being elated with parenthood.

What made it all worse was the fact that I was constantly comparing my life to everyone around me. I saw people with kids who were extremely well-behaved, and these people seemed to have it all together. They drove nice cars, lived in big houses, talked about lavish trips, and appeared to have perfectly-balanced lives.

I also saw people who were single, or married with no children, and thought about the solitude in their lives, the flexibility to take trips on a whim, and the simple fact that they could go out to dinner on a whim if they wanted.

Looking back, I only thought my life was in some way bad because I was comparing it to the lives of other people.

Once I began to realize that we’re all on our own individual journeys, I started to take notice of all the wonderful things in my life: a supportive family, a caring wife, a wonderful, healthy little boy, my own health, and an amazing network of friends.

And when you start to reflect on those aspects, your eyes open to even more simple blessings around you!

Over time I worked my way out of my depression, and even cut way back on the drinking!

Before you do anything else, think about three things in your life that you’re grateful for!

If you still find yourself stuck in a rut, be sure to read Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness: 101 Inspirational Stories about Finding Your Purpose, Passion, and Joy. This book is full of inspiring quotes and short stories, many of which were written by people facing significant struggles in their lives.

Appreciate your life – warts and all – because it’s the only one you’ve got.

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