- Definition: When bad things bump you in the head (metaphorically, don’t worry) and make you open your eyes to pay attention to your surroundings, thoughts and actions: does it really matter what I have been worrying about? Does it really matter what I do in this situation? Should I really feel this angry towards my surroundings? Often these different questions can be answered with one word: no.
“We all get so caught up in the moment of what we’re doing every day, it’s hard to hit that reset button and get pulled away from all that and see life from a different perspective”
– Tony Stewart –
My master thesis was about the effect of money on happiness and whether it was different for post-materialistic as opposed to materialistic people. The results were slightly inconclusive on that matter, as they seemed to depend on the measurement of (post-)materialism, but one effect was so great and significant in all my analyses, it was impossible to overlook: health is the biggest factor in affecting our personal happiness.
Initially “health” had merely been a control variable, but it’s safe to say its effect on our self-satisfaction opened my eyes. Slightly. Because every now and then I tend to forget to be appreciative of my good health. I forget I have so many good things going on in my life, because they’re there and I take them for granted.
And then something awful happens and I get thrown right back in that corner of “what does it all matter anyway?”. My perspective on life gets shaken and is turned upside down, until I remember to be appreciative and grateful of the few things that actually matter in life.
On both Monday and Tuesday I received bad news about the health statuses of two people I care about. The worst part is there is absolutely nothing I can do to fix their situations. Nothing. I’ve never felt so helpless and useless in my life. I don’t like to go down without a fight and the control freak inside me is going nuts over the simply yet horrendous fact that in both cases, I can do nothing but sit and wait and accept the situation. Which I don’t want to accept, but it’s all there is to do.
In all of this madness the framework through which I perceive the world has changed. So what if I am five minutes late to my hair dressing appointment? The world won’t stop spinning if I am! And who cares if my classmate was late sending in her homework for our next trial session? It’s not like that means the Apocalypse is near.
Life is precious and we often forget. Because we are too busy or think all good things will last forever. We don’t take into account all the things that could go wrong, which is good in a way, because that would lead to paranoia. But it’s not right to completely forget about the bad sides of life. Sometimes the shadows take over from the sunshine and leave us in the dark. Useless and upset and sad. Robbed of everything we believed in, and handed a sheet with basics to life: appreciate what you have, be grateful for what you’re given, and cherish your health.
I think with these three things, we can get further in life and live happier. Get out of the shadows and back into the sun. Because before you know it, we’ve run out of time and it’s too late to even try. And what good will an expensive car do you then? Or a big house? Exactly: nothing!
Although I wish we wouldn’t, every so often we need a push to put us back in our place, to righten our skewed perspective on life.
Health, gratitude, appreciation. I’d like to see the effects of those three on personal happiness. I bet they’re huge.