How to Appreciate What You Have Before It’s Gone

Life is full of great things. Unfortunately, you don’t know what they are until they’re ripped out of your hands. It’s hard to appreciate what you have.

I see something and I want it because I think it will make me happy. It could anything—a new pair of shoes, an improv class, a new job, a new man. But then I get it, and guess what, it doesn’t make me happy.

This is psychology.

So how do I appreciate what I have? I imagine losing it. It’s an old practice from stoicism, where you trick your brain into appreciating something because it thinks you lost it.

Most of life is figuring out how to trick ourselves into being better people.

Let’s take health for example. I recently heard about something called “the suicide disease” (trigeminal neuralgia) which causes intense pain in the face and head. It is terminal, and it only gets worse. That’s why it’s called the suicide disease.

I didn’t even know I needed to be thankful for not having terminal pain in my face that feels like a power drill. But now I am. Maybe you are too! That’s the power of negative visualization.

Another thought that’s been helpful is that at that moment of seeing something and thinking—I want it—I think to myself, “It won’t make me happy.*” It’s like taking a pickle back.

It cuts the intensity of desire with tangy reality, gives me a second to breathe and remember that wanting is the real addiction, and that it won’t go away by buying something.

*Ice cream cookie sandwiches are an exception to this. They do make me happy.