Developing Gratitude: A Week Without Luxuries


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What Would You Do If You Lost It All?

I recently had a conversation with someone who would likely be considered quite wealthy. We stumbled upon the topic of what they would do if they lost all their money. I don’t really know, I’ve built my entire life around this level of wealth. While that level of wealth is far from where most of us sit, it got me thinking. How miserable is it to lose your luxuries?

When we get down to the bare bones of life, how much do we really need? How much do luxuries contribute to our happiness? Most of us don’t want to become strict materialists, but no one can deny certain luxuries can make life more enjoyable. What would any of us do without luxuries? This led me to an exercise for practicing gratitude and strengthening internal resolve.

Live Below Your Means For A Week

Try living far below your means for a week. Don’t grab a coffee in the morning, don’t go out to eat, don’t go out to the movies. See how much less you can get by on. If you’re willing to be flexible, you can whittle down your ‘needs’ to almost nothing and still experience happiness.  

To do this exercise, you don’t have to be extreme. You don’t need to live on a park bench for a week to benefit. You can simply remove a few luxuries for a short period of time to see what kind of impact it has on your life. What you think is essential may not be that necessary when it comes down to it.

I’ve done this exercise a few times. I shed every luxury I can think of for a short period of time to see which items I truly bring value to my life. It has helped me discover how to be happy with less material possessions. Does this mean I don’t want any luxuries? Not quite – I still want nice things, I just know I don’t need them for my happiness.  

Building Gratitude & Resilience

Doing this exercise is a great way to build gratitude. You’ll realize that although livable, luxuries make it easier to be happy and productive. While they can disappear at any time, you can absolutely appreciate them while you have them. If they disappear, we know we can simply adjust – increasing our resilience.

Shedding our luxuries for a time reminds us we must look inward for peace. Ask yourself, I may not have x but how can I continue to live a happy life? This will narrow your focus on those things which are truly important. In addition, some level of difficulty is typically not nearly as offensive as we might imagine. For most of us, the initial change is difficult, but we can quickly adapt and find a way to live. Most of the problem is in the way we think about going without.

If you try this exercise and find it to be unbearable, it’s a sign to build your resolve. By being so attached to certain objects and luxuries you run the risk of serious mental breakdown if, for whatever reason, your access to these luxuries is cut off. While I don’t hope that on anyone, it’s always a possibility. Hinging our happiness on temporary luxuries is dangerous. Instead, we should look to build internal happiness and capitalize on the nice things around us – not the other ay around. 


Exercise:

  1. Pick some luxuries you can shed for a week.

  2. Through the week, look for ways to keep your happiness just as high. Don’t dwell on what you don’t have, just look for ways to keep happy.

  3. At the end of the week, spend some time writing down why you’re grateful you have access to the luxuries you gave up.


 

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