I have read many a “self help” book for the past three years although I don’t like that term. I prefer viewing them as books on how to learn more about human psychology. I am endlessly curious about human behaviour (and also animal behaviour which is very similar when you get down to the basics of it). One of the things that has stuck with me the most is the power of gratitude. It is a way to become more content and happy with what you have. It also works really well coupled with a frugal mindset. I am quite anxious and can get stuck in certain mindsets which these gratitude practices help me break out of.
Reverse Bucket List
In the modern world that surrounds us there is a constant strive to produce and just keep working towards the next thing. But as important as working towards your goals is it is equally important to remember that what you have now was at some point a dream. Your job, spouse, children, home, health or whatever else you have obtained that meant something to you was at some point just a dream or a vision. A good way of looking at all the dreams that you have already accomplished is to write a reverse bucket list and really appriciate what you have right now. My list contains for example:
- getting my masters degree -I definately just want to quit when writing my final thesis but I pushed through
- getting into great physical shape -tip its 90% the food you eat and 10% exercise
- getting a dog -this one was a life long dream
- thinking more positively -breaking the negative thoughts and self talk spiral is probably the hardest thing I have done so far
- finding the most amazing partner there is -3,5 years and counting Mr LIL
- running 10km -when I was younger and barely could run 500m I never thought I would be able to run 10km, let alone without really training hard for it (which I would not recommend)
- get my tattoo -getting up the nerve to do it took 4 years (which I do recommend so that you know you really want it for the rest of your life!)
- climb Norway’s two highest peaks in two days – definately didn’t think that my body (or mind) would be able to manage that but I did it
Negative visulisation is a poweful way to appreciate what you have. To practise negative visulisation you spend some time thinking about what life would be without certain things or people. It might seem morbid to contemplate things like the LIL wolf dying, if our apartment burnt down, loosing my job or if me and Mr LIL broke up. But done the right way it can create joy and gratitude around the things that you have or experience. The book A Guide to the Good Life by William Braxton Irvine has a great note on this: it’s important to distinguish between contemplating and worrying about something. Contemplation is to intellectually think but not emotionally get affected while worrying leads to anxiety or feeling depressed. You don’t need to do this all the time but rather rimind yourself now and again to be grateful for what you have through imagining what it would be with like without.
Negative visulisation also helps with coping with an ever changing world and appreciating the now. Everything we do can be the last time we do it so stop sleep walking through life and invest in the things we do now. If you actually loose something you will have appreciated it more when you had it and won’t have lots of what ifs and guilt that you should have done more or appreciated it more. You will of course still miss or grieve but it helps to know you made the most of the time that you got.
Another way to practise gratitude is to keep a journal where you write down three things that you are grateful for. This makes your mind look for things to write down in the journal which means that you will be searching for things to be grateful for throughout your day. This idea comes from Tim Ferriss book Tools of Titans and he recommends considering different categories like an opportunity, something great that happened, a relationship you value highly, something simple like a beautiful sunrise, a nice cup of coffee so that you don’t go into autopilot.
I have downloaded the app the 5 minute journal, there is also a physical journal that you can buy online but having it on my phone with reminders works well for me (and saves some trees and money).
And how does this connect to frugality?
By practising gratitude around the things that you already have in life the urge to go out and just buy more stuff that you hope will make you more happy won’t be as strong. Instead you might spend more time appreciating what you already own. You can take it however far you want. Modern society leads us to take a lot of things for granted but what if you weren’t just appreciative of having your home (which was once just a dream) but also of having running water? Spending some time being grateful is a real game changer for creating and seeing joy in every day life and also cherishing and making the most of the relationships that you have. I think it is the antidote for taking stuff for granted and leads to happiness (and frugality!).