How to Appreciate Life

My wife, Klassy, used to teach workshops for couples. She taught communication skills and put them through exercises so they could practice. One of the exercises she put them through used the principle of comparison reframes and taught them how to appreciate life.

Klassy would have each couple sit facing each other, and then she talked to them while slow, wordless, beautiful, moving music played. "Imagine," Klassy would say, "that you two have lived a long life together. You're both very old. And your partner is now on their deathbed. Your mate's life will be over soon. Imagine how that will feel to you then. The two of you have been through so much together..."

Of course, this was a very emotional experience for almost everybody. Klassy gave them plenty of time to fully imagine this scenario and to feel how sad it would (or will) be.

"What would you miss about your partner?" Klassy said, giving them long pauses of just music playing for them to think about this. "What special memories would you cherish?"

When they really couldn't take any more and the room was about two feet deep in tears, Klassy would say something like this:

"Imagine how much you would want to come back to this be here with your have your future still ahead of you..."

Long pause. "And realize what you wished for is here. The two of you are here, together, alive, your future ahead of you."

You've never seen so many people gaze at each other so happily and appreciatively.

People were impressively moved by this experience. Here they were — like most couples — to some degree taking each other for granted, comparing yesterday with today, or whatever they're doing in their minds, but not really appreciating each other. "You don't know what you've got till it's gone," so the song goes. Really? What if you vividly imagined what it would be like if it was gone? And then realized it isn't gone?

Guess what? You can know what you've got while you've got it! You can do it by the way you make comparisons. You can use comparisons deliberately.

If you want to feel contentment and happiness, compare your present circumstances to something worse. It is simple, it works, and it never wears out. This directly counters the negative bias that makes you naturally compare things in a negative way.

When people say, "count your blessings," they are essentially telling you to compare your life to something worse, and feel grateful your life is the way it is. And it works. In one study, people who wrote in a diary for only five minutes a day about what they were grateful for, were measurably happier. You can do this throughout the day, and it doesn't have to be done sitting down or writing.

This is how to appreciate life. Using comparisons in this way allows you to awake from your trance for a while and really appreciate the moment and appreciate the person you're with. Try it today.

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