No Bullshit: Gratitude Changes Everything

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gratitude_being_grateful

If you’re anything like me (and pretty much every other person, ever) you have countless memories of looking forward to getting or achieving something, and how awesome it feels for the following five seconds before you totally take it for granted and start wanting something else.

THIS IS WHY YOUR RELATIONSHIPS FAIL.

This is why you feel a little depressed and unfulfilled.

This is why even though we have nice cars and smartphones and HDTVs and houses and good jobs and attractive partners and beautiful children and awesome friends and supportive families, we STILL want more shit.

Like most things, this sucky part of the human condition is not without its perks. Without a predisposition toward achievement, humanity would have died off eons ago from disease and lion attacks because cavemen would have discovered how to make fire and just stopped trying new things forever.

The cost of ambition is the destruction of internal peace and contentment. Of our individual pursuits of happiness.

It has a name, and I didn’t know it until today: Hedonic adaptation.

It is the psychological phenomenon of boredom and dissatisfaction taking hold over time as we adjust to positive life changes.

It’s why the person who gives you intense crushy tummy butterflies and lusty pulses of orgasmic euphoria can turn into your feel-nothing roommate just a few years, or even months, later.

It’s why your brand-new car from a couple years ago from which you once handpicked the occasional pet hair from the carpet, is now sufficiently unclean and fails to deliver those fun I’m-proud-to-drive-this! feelings when you climb in.

It’s why no material thing or salary increase or lifestyle change IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE has ever capably delivered long-term happiness to the person unaware of the dangers of hedonic adaptation (which I’m pretty sure is more than 95 percent of everybody.)

OMG! What Can I Do About It???

There is, literally, only ONE cure for this life-destroying ailment. And that is to actively, deliberately, vigilantly practice gratitude.

Your choice, every day of your life, is: Really and truly feel thankful for all of the great things in your life OR suffer a slow descent into miserable shittiness.

That’s not an exaggeration. Remember when P. Diddy was wearing those silly Vote or Die! shirts, and we were all like: “WTF, Puff Daddy!? Are you and The Family going to murder non-voters!? That seems like an overreaction! Ohhhhhhh. You just mean, voting is really important and we should all do it, and you chose that slogan to spread the message? Got it now! Sorry, but that’s stupid. You don’t die when you don’t vote, because we would totally hear about that in the news.”

Anyway. This gratitude stuff is nothing like that. I’m more right about this than Puffy was about the voting/death correlation. Please don’t listen to him, unless it’s his track “Victory” with Notorious B.I.G. because that shit was mad rare.

Find a way to say “Thank you” and really feel, deep in your heart and soul, genuine gratitude that your life doesn’t suck and is actually quite blessed.

“But, Matt! My life DOES suck right now!”

I’m totally putting my hands up right now in the universal sign language for “Fair enough.” I get it. I’m a whiny turd every time something doesn’t go my way, too. It’s because I haven’t mastered this gratitude thing yet and forget how good I really have it.

I forget EVERY DAY.

Right now, a woman in some faraway place is holding her dying child because of the trickle-down effect of not having sanitary drinking water in her village.

Someone else doesn’t know how to read. Someone else can’t find employment. Someone else will get shot or sexually assaulted walking in his or her neighborhood today. Someone else has a child with a terminal illness.

Others can’t pay the electric bill.

Others have no car.

Others have no home.

Others have zero people who love them.

I whined a little yesterday because I got stuck in traffic for, like, 30 minutes, and everything worked out fine.

My 7-year-old asked whether I wanted him to starve to death because his stomach was rumbling before dinner.

Tomorrow, even though I’m a thoughtful eater portion-wise, I am still likely to throw away more food than millions of people scattered throughout the world have available to them.

If You Don’t Start Now, You’ll Forget and Stay on the Hedonic Treadmill (and that’s bad)

I know it sounds like a bunch of hippy dippy bologna.

I know.

But this is real. And if you (and I do this constantly, so I have to believe everyone else does too) ever say or think: “When X, Y and Z happens, EVERYTHING is going to be different and I’ll finally be happy!!!” it means you’re an unwitting prisoner on the Hedonic Treadmill. Just running and running and running and never getting anywhere. Just like me.

It’s time to get off.

We celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States tomorrow. The day where most people remember to say “Thank you!”

Please remember to say Thank you.

Just maybe, all that gratitude will be contagious.

And just maybe, if we catch it, it will save our lives.

(Note: A massive Thank You to Amit Amin at Happier Human for all the great content that contributed to this post.)

43 thoughts on “No Bullshit: Gratitude Changes Everything”

  1. Hey Matt, having jumped off the Hedonic treadmill a few years ago and trying to live a “less is more ” lifestyle with a bit of “yogic mindfulness ” I am immensely happier…. it took a few decades to get there and it’s always a process but I gotta say Gratitude feels so much better…. Thanks for the reminder … Have a Happy Thanksgiving … Lisa

  2. I couldn’t agree more! My focus lately has been compassion, which I think is a form of gratitude. It can be really difficult these days with all the hate and vitriol splattered across the news and social media, but it’s definitely possible. You just have to decide it’s important enough to make it a priority, and be present when doing it.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Matt!!

    1. Hey! Awesome to hear from you, Gail.

      And yeah. It’s really difficult to do EVERYTHING we’re supposed to do which is why most don’t, and most things in life suck more than they should.

      We just have to decide to do something, and do it.

      Compassion is a perfectly wonderful thing to focus on.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, as well!

  3. Agreed. Easier said than done as I too am guilty of being a whiner when things don’t go my way. When it gets outta control I try to think the other way around.

    An hour ago I discovered a pull-up went thru the wash. OMG. All parents can agree “that’s a big pain in the ass mess”. I was so mad. But hey, some people don’t have a washer.

    My kids are driving me nuts today. But hey, some people can’t have kids. Or did but tragically lost them.

    But yes, we get spolied sometimes. Or just get used to a certain way of living and get upset or ungrateful. It happens. Sometimes you don’t know how good you do actually have it.

    Great post as always. Always good to know other people out there think about these things too. Have a Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

    1. I really liked your examples. I think that’s precisely the correct sort of way to mentally process all the crap stuff that happens to us.

      Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! Thank you very much for taking time to read and comment.

  4. Gawd, I actually JUST wrote a post this morning about being grateful. Haha. Had written a couple of others in the past week, too. Glad someone else is on the same wavelength here – it really is almost like a DUTY we have to toil at every minute of every day to stay grateful. So easy to just stop working on it and fall back into depressed sighs of false unfulfilment.
    I don’t care how many repetitive posts I gotta write from here-on out, I personally am determined to get off this treadmill and change my life finally for the better.

    Thanks again for the wonderful post and for bringing this to so many peoples’ attention. Totally didn’t realize it had a name actually, haha… good to know!

    Xx Jade

    1. You secretly wanted to celebrate the American Thanksgiving, Jade!

      I think you’ve got it all figured out. It’s our duty to REMEMBER to be grateful, and it’s surprisingly difficult, but I read practice makes perfect. Also, my little league coaches said that. So. I don’t think those guys are ever wrong.

  5. There are two events in my life that changed me from the perspective of gratitude.

    1) going to a third world country, where I saw young women with missing limbs begging in the streets because they had stepped on landmines and there is was no social system to take care of them. Seeing that made me appreciate my cushy life that I had taken for granted quite a bit more.

    2) becoming a father, and going for walks with a young child – where it would take us 45 mins to make it three houses down. My son was so caught up in everything – bugs on the sidewalk, the texture of tree bark, grass. It made me realize how much beauty and wonder we have around ourselves every day, that we don’t even see.

    Since then, when I find myself taking things for granted (which happens all the time) I try to go back to what I felt in those moments.

    1. I’ve never seen that type of poverty and hardship outside of TV and the news, Drew. I think I can appreciate how impactful it must be when confronted face to face.

      And about your son? Totally. Viewing most of life through the eyes of a child would do wonders for our wellbeing.

      Hope you had a very happy Thanksgiving, sir.

    1. Right. I think if it were even a little bit easy, the world would be an infinitely safer, kinder, more beautiful place.

      Doing the right and best thing every day is super-hard, and I frequently suck at it.

      Hope you’re well, Mike. And that very good things are headed your way.

    1. I’m so glad you liked it. Thank you for saying so. Thanksgiving was very nice. I hope the same is true for you. 🙂

    1. I was admittedly more interested in the Get-Bored-with-my-Partner component of it, but you’re certainly correct. I’m pretty sure as a marketing professional, I’m part of the problem. ?

  6. Yes, yes, yes. Something we need to work on every day and teach our children well. Here’s hoping you had a happy Thanksgiving filled with people you love, laughter and good things.

    Thankful for the great connections I’ve made in the blog-o-sphere this year. Gobble, gobble.

    1. Thank you, Jen. Thanksgiving was very nice! Hope your family’s was as well. You’re most certainly a great connection. Your writing is a gift. Have a great weekend, please!

    1. Thank you for seeing it that way. It seems too simple to be the life game-changer that it is. I really appreciate you reading and commenting.

    1. Extremely difficult. I intentionally used the word “vigilant” because I think that’s the attitude required to get good enough to make it a most-of-the-time thing.

      Hope you had an excellent holiday!

  7. Pingback: Cracking the Code: 7 Ideas That Would Have Saved My Marriage | Must Be This Tall To Ride

  8. Pingback: Cracking the Code: 7 Ideas That Would Have Saved My Marriage – Diary of a Terrible Wife

  9. Hello and nice to meet you! Found you, reblogged, I think, on ideaphilosopher. This is a great reminder–direct, yet compassionate and authentic. Thank you and I look forward to reading more! ?

      1. My pleasure! I have followed you because it looks like you have a lot to say and contribute. I really want to take in your posts on shitty husbands. Your premise that they are not necessarily shitty people is an important distinction. We all need to learn how to be in relationships, and we don’t all have the best role models to prepare us. So sometimes we fail. And it’s okay because that’s life, and because we can always learn–if we choose to. So happy to have found you, looking forwar to sharing more! ?

        1. Thank you. I think that’s an important one. Troubled relationships and divorce are the core topics I think and write about, and I’ve come to believe that most married couples are very decent, well-meaning people who accidentally push each other away over 5-10 years, because they just don’t realize it’s happening.

          Even if I’m wrong about the “most,” it’s true so often that it’s terrifying how many people are unaware how the breakdowns occurs. It’s so subtle and nuanced, that two people who love one another and intend to stay married forever incrementally grow resentful, then apathetic, then hate life so much that one or both doesn’t want to stay married anymore.

          I think the ripple effects of all of the broken families and broken hearts makes the world more damaged than it need be if people were simply AWARE.

          People ask me all the time: “What could she have said for you to realize this before it’s too late?”

          It’s the #1 question I get, because everyone understandably wants to know how to save their marriages.

          But the truth is, I’m not sure there was anything someone could have said.

          I think I had to experience the hurt to know. I think I had to pay the toll and find my way to the other side.

          I don’t think I’d have been receptive to the message without learning the hard way that I didn’t know what I thought I knew.

          But sometimes there are people who read something here before it’s too late for them. Something clicks, and then they get to be someone better tomorrow.

          Other than trying to be a good father to my young son, it’s the most important thing I’ve ever done.

          Thank you for checking it out.

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