It is easy to take all sorts of pleasures for granted. Being aware of these things and expressing gratitude can make one appreciate life more. Keeping a gratitude journal, thanking a Higher Power for all the good things in life and talking in a positive way make one feel happier. However, there is a human tendency to experience less pleasure from some things as we just get used to them and adapt.
Have you ever noticed how you get so excited the first time you experience something but as that experience is repeated numerous times it doesn't provide such a buzz? Perhaps you enjoy chocolate or a special biscuit but if you have it every day it becomes a habit and the shine wears off.
I remember when I was a child there were certain foods and drinks that we only had at Grandma's house or on special occasions. Grandma had lemonade in her fridge. We didn't have it at home so it was a real treat.
Years ago an icecream on a stick or an icecream treat such as a Drumstick was something you bought at the deli as a treat. These days one can buy multi packs of them and keep them in the home freezer. If you have these frequently, not only is there a tendency to put on weight, but they are no longer special.
Studies have shown where people have given up for a week something they usually indulge in on a daily basis they tend to enjoy it more when they indulge again. Activities like watching television or eating chocolate are daily occurrences for some and become habit, providing minimal pleasure.
Study participants who were in the habit of eating chocolate most days were instructed to abstain for a week. When they first had chocolate after a week without it, most expressed enjoying it more than usual.
I love cappuccino when I go to a cafe. I have made a conscious decision not to buy a cappuccino maker for home as I am sure it would lose its appeal if I drank it on a daily basis. Likewise I have never made deep fried chips at home as not only would I stack on the weight, but they wouldn't be a treat so wouldn't provide the same pleasure.
Image by Marie Vonow
Sometimes we lose something we take for granted and being without it makes us appreciate it all the more when it returns. Recently we lost power and this event certainly makes one aware of how dependent we are on electricity.
A practice called Mental Subtraction of Positive Events encourages one to think of a particular positive event one has experienced. This could be a holiday away, an achievement at work or meeting someone special. Then imagine that event had not happened. Think of what you would have missed out on.
A study of this theory conducted in 2008 found the participants felt more gratitude than the control group who were instructed to think about positive events without imagining they had not happened.
While there are many special things I find myself taking for granted, there are others that continue to provide a real buzz. Many of these are aspects of Nature. There are swallows living under our verandah. I get a feeling of joy every time I see them flying or observe one sitting on their mud nest. They truly are 'welcome' swallows.
Swallow Image by Marie Vonow
Likewise, the flowers covering my two lavender bushes uplift me every time I look at them. The same goes for many other flowers in my garden, even those with a long flowering period. If the roses bloomed all year round I think I would get just as much pleasure from each new bud.
There are also special people in my life who bring me happiness every time I see them.
What are some of the things you take for granted which once provided you with a sense of pleasure? Are there things that always uplift you no matter how often you experience them?
This is a wonderful article - every now and then I make myself do an exercise of "ten things I am grateful for". I notice an uplifting effect on my mood, feeling considerably brighter after doing this exercise. Usually 'being fortunate enough to live in this country' tops the list. It's ironic that depression is most prevalent in the most affluent of nations...I think that if I were to take things for granted a little less, it would do me a lot of good! Thank you for this great article.
Thanks for your comments, Justine. I totally agree with your comment about it being ironic more people suffer Depression in wealthier nations. I once read an interesting account of the life of a woman who lived through the 1930s Depression in Liverpool. She commented that although the living conditions of the family improved and they had more money in later years they were happier when they were more connected with their neighbours and helped each other out through the really tough times.