Being Thankful for Having Less

by Shaunna Privratsky
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How do you make yourself happy when you’re struggling? Take these steps and learn to be grateful for what you do have instead of longing for things you don’t have. You’ll open the door to a fuller, happier life.

We live in a nation of plenty. We enjoy an abundant food supply, and virtually any material good that we desire is available at the right price. Just by waking up, we have so much to be thankful for.

Sometimes bad things happen. Accidents happen. People get sick and die. There are time when it seems like the whole world is against us.

So what should you do?

Celebrity talk show hosts and life coaches urge us to keep a gratitude journal. This is simply listing five or so things that we are grateful for every day. Being grateful on a daily basis puts us in an optimistic frame of mind. We are able to focus on the positive side of every situation.

Thanksgiving is always a wonderful time of year to stop and reflect on the goodness in our lives. We can celebrate with family and friends and make a special day of togetherness. Yet, if we extend the gratitude to encompass the whole year, we give ourselves the gift of joy.

We often hear about “glass half full” type of people. They are the ones on the Titanic that go under smiling. They look at every setback or disappointment as another opportunity to do something different or better. They are so Pollyanna-like that we sometimes want to strangle them!

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Yes, bad things happen to good people. However, if we can glean some nugget of good from even the most tragic event, we can actually train ourselves to be happier and more optimistic.

It is a noted fact that patients with a positive outlook and hope for the future recover faster and heal better than sorry-for-themselves-Sallys. People who smile a lot feel better and more hopeful, so even if you don’t feel like it, fake it. Eventually the genuine feeling of happiness will catch up.

How to be thankful and happy when you have less

But how do you make yourself be happy when all you want to do is crawl under the covers and never come out? You have to do some mental housekeeping.

Stop the self-critical thoughts…

First, sweep out your self-critical thoughts where you snip and degrade yourself. “You’ll never make enough money.” “You’re a pig!” “You’re so lazy; you look like a lump of lard.” “Your hair is so frizzy the light company could charge wattage.” We are our own worst enemy sometimes.

and focus on your good qualities

Instead, concentrate on the good qualities you know that you possess. “You’re so organized; you paid all the bills on time.” “That’s a great color on you.” “You deserve a break, so rent your favorite movie.” When you’re good to yourself, you’re at peace. That translates into serenity, which helps you face whatever life throws at you.

Stop dwelling on the past

Next, let go of all your past mistakes. Many of us dwell on things we did wrong yesterday, a month ago, or even a decade ago. If you can’t do anything about it, just let it go and move forward. Each day is a brand-new start on a better life. (See Moving Past Financial Missteps and Regrets.)

Decide what really brings you joy

Take a look around. What makes you happiest? Is it that new plasma television set that you’ll be making payments on until the youngest is in college? Is it a shiny new car or house bigger than the neighbors? Or is it your family and closest friends that bring you the most joy?

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Do with less

Often, doing with less material things can actually make you happier. For instance, if you drive an old clunker, but it is completely paid for and reliable, you are saving money and stress from high monthly payments. If your house fits your lifestyle and you can easily make the mortgage payments, you will be happier than if you have to scramble each month in a bigger, but not necessarily better, house. (See The ABCs of Frugality: 8 Simple Rules to Spending Less and Enjoying Life More.)

An easy way to do this is by asking a simple question each time you plan a purchase. Ask yourself, “Is this item a want or a need?” If you stop and think about it, you can quickly decide if you really need the very latest game system for your kids or if they are doing just fine with their old one.

Being grateful is like opening the door to a fuller life. You learn to be thankful for your health, which we take for granted until something goes wrong. You wake up thankful for what you have, instead of longing for things that are out of reach. No matter what’s in store for you, you can find the silver lining when you are thankful for having less.

Reviewed November 2022

About the Author

Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Visit her at The Discount Diva.

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