Learning how to appreciate what you have can be a long and arduous process. With teen glossies telling you to buy the trendiest (and most expensive) gear AND your fave ladies on TV walking around in a different pair of Manolos each episode, it can feel almost impossible to be thankful for all of the amazing things and people in your life. But with these 7 easy tips, you’ll know how to appreciate what you have a bit more each day. In this world of fast everything (fashion, food, you name it), stepping back to understand what’s really important is absolutely vital. So what are you waiting for?
One of the best ways to learn how to appreciate what you have is to give to those in need. When I moved in with my partner this past winter, I donated many of my old things. As she said to me, 'Would you rather let this stuff sit here untouched, or would you give them to someone who could really use them?' Needless to say, I took my stuffed animals/prom dresses/shoes to a local drop-off center. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it felt to have fewer material possessions. I could appreciate what I DID use more –and actually FIND my new clothing and makeup. That’s what I’d call a win-win.
2. People, Not Things
As a teenager, I couldn’t quite understand why my grandfather seemed completely unconcerned with what our culture tells us is important. Meanwhile, I was obsessed with buying the latest Coach bag, dyeing my hair the trendiest color, and figuring out ways to be well-liked at school. But when my grandfather was dying in the hospital, I understood that he wasn’t concerned with material possessions because he was too busy picking me up from school every day, attending my twin sisters’ science fairs and math bees, and spending his final years with what was most important: his family. As an adult, I recognize that my baby sisters are so much more important than any job promotion, fleeting trend, or looking good. So, when you’re about to compare yourself to that impossibly perfect model gracing the pages of every fashion magazine, stop for a second and think about the people whom you love and who love you, just the way you are. Love is the greatest, most powerful thing you could have, and it is immeasurable.
3. Do Something
Volunteering can inadvertently make you appreciate all that you DO have when so many are going without. Whether you walk shelter dogs, fight for human rights, serve meals at a soup kitchen, answer hotline calls, or plant trees in your community, you’ll recognize that you have so much to give to the world –and it needs you. For a list of opportunities in your area, visit volunteer.gov, volunteermatch.org, serve.gov, or check in with your local nonprofit organizations.
4. Stop Buying Items You Don’t Need
Sure, a treat every now and then won’t hurt, but do you really need that 25th bottle of nail polish? If the answer is no, skip it and save up for what you really want –like the iPad you’ve been drooling over for months or a gift card to the restaurant mom and dad have been dying to dine at for ages. When you really want something, you’ll appreciate it much more than the drugstore nail polish that’ll sit in your drawer for months. And you'll have time to enjoy all of the things you already own!
5. Work for It
I’d be lying if I told you that allowances—and those $20 ‘bonuses’ from grandma weren’t nice. But make sure that you’re really pitching in around the house for that money. If you’re a cash-strapped college student or recent grad, take on a part-time or temporary gig as you scour the job boards for permanent, full-time work. NOT depending on your parents or guardians to take care of you won’t only make you feel good, but it’ll also help you carefully consider what you spend your paychecks on. Plus, your ‘rents will see you as the responsible young woman that you are. Work it, girl!
6. Say Thank You
Back in my freshman year of college, I was lucky to have an excellent professor who encouraged me to write, write, and write some more. Fast forward six years and I’m a freelance writer! By pushing me to think outside of the box and hone my skills, he showed me that I could forge my own path and have the career I had always dreamed about. I only wish that it hadn’t taken me so many years to send him a message expressing my gratitude. Today, don’t forget to reflect on those people who have helped you along the way. Write a letter. Pick up the phone. Say thank you. You might just discover that you’ve been equally as helpful and inspiring to others.
7. Focus on the Positive
Confession: This season, I’ve been having a hard time accepting my body’s curves and little imperfections –especially when it seems that every model/actress is a size 2 and airbrushed to perfection. If you find yourself feeling similarly (about anything!), consider creating a list of everything you love about yourself and your life. All done? Don’t hesitate to learn something new (I went out and bought a ukulele…it’s about time I learned to play an instrument) or make positive improvements. And remember: It’s not a competition. Work toward your ultimate goals a little bit each day, at your own pace.
These are 7 top ways to appreciate what you have. Which tips do you plan on following? Do you have any of your own to add? Let me know in the comments!