It’s easy to believe that more will make you happier. Particularly, in the United States where financial wealth and household income are commonly linked to well-being, according to data from the Pew Research Center. It’s not surprising how we’ve come to believe that having more will make us happy. Every day we’re bombarded with messages from advertising, television, online shopping channels and social media that often tell us: more “stuff” equals success and, in turn, happiness. Sometimes, it’s not just about having more stuff. Needy thoughts can also make us want more from our relationships and those around us, too.
We’ve all fallen prey to thoughts such as: “If I only had that new car or outfit…” or “I wish my spouse listened to me more…” or “If only my job were more interesting and my salary we’re higher…”
But continually focussing on what we don’t have or engaging in an endless pursuit for more often leads us to feel more dissatisfied. After all, there’s always more to want. In the process, we often wind up devaluing what we do have and the richness of our existing relationships.
Creating more self-awareness and turning our attention toward gratitude can often break the cycle of the needy thoughts that sometimes overtake us.
Here are some ways to cultivate more awareness and gratitude and bring mindfulness to the bounty that’s already in your life:
1. Developing Self-Awareness
Often the desire for more is a reflexive habit conditioned by marketing, peer groups or even long-held family beliefs. Sometimes we can find ourselves seeking things without pausing to see if it’s truly what we want or need.
Practicing mindfulness by paying attention to the the thoughts, feelings and sensations that arise in the present moment without judgement can help us cut through our habitual tendencies. When we’re mindful, we can see and even physically feel the desire for more within us and better understand whether what we’re seeking is truly what we want.
As part of our mindfulness practice, we can tune into the patterns that lead us to want more and get to know them better. Are thoughts of inadequacy or comparison present? Are there emotions present that lead us to feel less than others? And when desire arises, what does it feel like in the body? Do sensations of heaviness or an agitated energy emerge?
Pausing and checking in with what we’re thinking, feeling and sensing in the body when we notice ourselves grasping for more can help us become more intimate with our particular patterns of neediness. We can then respond rather than react to them. And we can decide whether we’re being directed by conditioning or being guided by an authentic wish for something that would truly make us happy.
2. Fostering Gratitude
When needy thoughts arise it’s helpful to stop and take a breath and mindfully turn our attention toward what we’re grateful for in our lives. Research shows that focusing on what we appreciate and are thankful for fosters positive emotions as well as an overall sense of well-being.
Sometimes, incorporating gratitude in your day is a matter of intentionally changing your perspective on a situation or a person and reframing it in a new light. You might not have the perfect job, for example, but you love the people you work with and your commute is traffic free. Your husband might not be as outgoing as you would like, but he’s always available to listen to you. You might be tired of wearing the same suit and can’t afford a new one yet, but the suit still looks great on you.
Paying attention to the small things in your life can also help you realize that while you might not have everything you want you have much of what you need. Being grateful for having a comfortable bed, a decent meal or a dear friend can quickly lessen the thoughts and feelings that often drive us to want more.
Putting it into Practice
The next time you think you want more, pause and attend to the thoughts, feelings and sensations that arise. Become familiar with them and learn to discern whether they’re a reaction or a response to something you truly desire. Practicing gratitude — either by spending time reflecting on all that you appreciate in your life, changing your perspective or even keeping a gratitude journal — can help you be thankful for all that you do have in your life. And if you need help turning inward and tuning in to what you truly want eMindful is here for you. Discover eM Life today and gain access to practical skills to help you change from the inside out. Sign-up for a free trial and start learning mindfulness from expert instructors through live online mindfulness sessions and daily classes.
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Originally published at eMindful.