How to Appreciate Your Life
You Have More to Be Grateful for Than You Think
We hereby interrupt your 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
Fess up: How much do you complain?
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'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
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!)
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!
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.
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
Illness Or Injury Typically Affecting Motor Skills
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.
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.
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
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
They Don't Have Your Freedoms
How Their Citizens Don't Enjoy Your Freedoms
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
the military regime monitors movement through microchipped citizen cards and restricts movement of political dissidents, women, government workers, and migrant workers
citizens must request permission when they want to reside elsewhere, else 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
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 22% of the world's population that owns or shares a computer.15
You're connected to the rest of the world via the Internet, thus you're on the lucky side of the "digital divide." Even 15% of Americans 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.
Do you tend to see things ...
Words of Wisdom on Complaining
"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain -- and most fools do.
- Benjamin Franklin, American founding father
"If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it."
- Anthony J. D'Angelo, American author
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."
- Maya Angelou, American author and poet
"The future rewards those who press on. I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on."
- Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States
"Say and do something positive that will help the situation; it doesn't take any brains to complain."
- Robert A. Cook, American author
"I had no shoes and complained, until I met a man who had no feet."
- Indian Proverb
"You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses."
"Today I can complain because the weather is rainy or I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free."
- Author Unknown
"People won't have time for you if you are always angry or complaining."
- Stephen Hawking, British author and theoretical physicist
"The people who live in a golden age usually go around complaining how yellow everything looks."
- Randall Jarrell, American poet and literary critic
Gripe If You Want To, but You Have a Lot to Be Thankful For
1Olson, E. R. (2014, January 24). Why Are 250 Million Sperm Cells Released During Sex? Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/32437-why-are-250-million-sperm-cells-released-during-sex.html.
2Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (n.d.). The World Factbook. Retrieved February 23, 2014, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/xx.html.
3World Health Organization (2013, October). Visual impairment and blindness. Retrieved February 22, 2014, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs282/en/.
4Durden, T. (2013, February 13). 23% Of America Is Illiterate | Zero Hedge. Retrieved February 22, 2014, from http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-02-13/23-america-illiterate.
5Fields, G. (2008, October 21). The High School Dropout's Economic Ripple Effect. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB122455013168452477.
6Johnston, C. (2011, July 24). Series Overview: The Cost Of Dropping Out. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2011/07/24/138508517/series-overview-the-cost-of-dropping-out.
7Moeller, P. (2012, March 22). Why Marriage Makes People Happy. Retrieved from http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2012/03/22/why-marriage-makes-people-happy.
8Parker-Pope, A. (2010, April 14). Is Marriage Good for Your Health? Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/magazine/18marriage-t.html?pagewanted=all.
9Szabo, L. (2013, February 23). Married cancer patients are more likely to survive. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/23/marriage-cancer-patients/2845087/.
10Huffington Post (2012, March 6). Marriage And Health: Study Suggests Marriage Can Help With Recovery After Heart Surgery. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/06/marriage-and-health_n_1324509.html.
11Bond, A. (2014, February 20). Marriage Quality May Influence Heart Disease Risk| Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/20/us-marriage-heart-disease-idUSBREA1J23S20140220.
12Freedom House (2013). Freedom of the Press 2013. Retrieved from http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/freedom-press-2013#.UwjSePldWSo.
13The New York Times Editorial Board (2014, February 20). Muzzling Speech in India. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/21/opinion/muzzling-speech-in-india.html.
14Tufekci, Z. (2012, September 14). Why free speech is baffling to many. Retrieved February 23, 2014, from http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/09/14/why-free-speech-is-baffling-to-many/.
15100 People Foundation (n.d.). 100 People: A World Portrait. Retrieved February 23, 2014, from http://www.100people.org/statistics_100stats.php?section=statistics.
16Stern, J. (2013, September 26). Offline Americans: 15 Percent of Americans Live Without Using Email or Internet. Retrieved February 23, 2014, from http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/offline-americans-15-percent-americans-live-email-internet/story?id=20386849.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 FlourishAnyway