This morning as I was indulging in the mindless ritual of scrolling through my Facebook feed, something unusual caught my attention. I say unusual due to the overwhelming amount of memes, baby photos and whinging status updates that are usually encountered in the vast majority of news feeds — this was, alarmingly, not any one of these. The somewhat recent edition of ‘reactions’ instead of simply liking content posted on Facebook has opened up a plethora of possibilities for users. I myself am quite the fan, I always used to feel like a sub-par human being for ‘liking’ a post that clearly did not warrant any ‘likes’. Now, I have the luxury (I use this term incredibly loosely) of expressing sadness, amazement, anger or hilarity with a simple thumb swipe.

Earlier, I wished to express my appreciation for something I came across with the ever popular ‘laughing-crying-face’ emoji found in the panel of reactions. To say I was taken aback by the unexpected addition to what I had previously thought was a more than adequate selection of reactions, would be a blatant exaggeration. Not a lot really phases me, least of all anything that could be found on social media. However, when my eyes came to rest upon the seemingly nonchalant flower emoji that was non-existent the day before, I simply had to know what it represented in the colourful world of Facebook. I pressed my thumb to the screen and hovered over the virtual flora, with not the slightest clue as to what word might possibly appear and subsequently, cure my curiosity.

I wouldn’t consider myself as someone who is overly influenced by the powers of social media platforms, but upon reading what it actually was that the flower stood for, I felt a sudden pang of… something. I don’t think I could describe it as guilt because I hadn’t really done anything wrong by anyone or anything at that stage of my morning, but I’ve since racked my brain trying to pinpoint a more accurate replacement and I am yet to find one. The flower emoji revealed the correlating emotion it had been assigned to represent — ‘grateful’. Where it is that my loosely termed guilt came from I am yet to determine, although I do know this much: immediately after, I put my phone down and instantly I felt grateful.

Now more than ever before, it is far too easy to lose ourselves in our day to day lives. We work and we abide and we fade into shadows of our former selves and become emotionally invested in nothing. Our souls suffer as we try our very best to do as much as we can to better ourselves (for the most part) in some self-appointed, life long search for ‘real’ happiness. We wait for special occasions, for holidays, for the weekend, for trivial things in our future — we wait to live. How sad is that? We are so terribly focussed on the future and all the possibilities it holds, that we entirely neglect our present and forget that life is meant solely to be lived. We think we have it all figured out, but the reality is that all we have for certain is right now.

I’m almost embarrassed to say that it took an emoji on social media for me to stop what I was doing, bring my focus entirely into the present and simply ‘be’. Be honest with yourself: when was the last time you stopped in your tracks and consciously practiced gratitude? Looked up at the sky in awe of it’s beauty and wonderment? Smiled as a flock of birds dipped and dived in perfect synchronicity overhead? Taken a moment to admire the endless beauty that can be found all around you, if only you would take a moment to look?

Stop, now. Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose. Hold this breath in your lungs for four seconds, and then slowly exhale again. Do you ever stop to think how lucky you are to be able to indulge in such a simple action that you usually take for granted every second of every day? As you took that breath, somebody, somewhere took their last. And I am willing to bet they wished with every fibre of their being that it hadn’t been. They probably wished they had lived more, too. They probably wished they had spent less time working and worrying and simply ‘existing’, and far more time indulging and loving and feeling alive.

Do me a favour: every single day, regardless of the worldly pressures you might be feeling and the weight of it all on your shoulders — stop. Close your eyes and breathe for a while. Completely and utterly embrace the fact that you are alive. Alive enough to choose how it is you want to spend the precious time we have in this life. Try to think of at least three things that you are grateful for today, and if you can think of more, don’t hold back. Write them down somewhere, and come back to them when your day to day life is testing you. Be grateful for each and every little thing that amounts to your life and contributes to your world. I promise you, being genuinely grateful for everything you’ve been blessed with will change your life for the better.