- Amélie May Fyfe
Based on the youtube video by Kurzgesagt
You feel like your life isn’t quite enough. Like you’re not enough. Nothing seems to meet your expectations. You feel like you’re stuck in a loop, constantly chasing something better. Sound familiar?
This is dissatisfaction. If you can identify with the paragraph above, you are experiencing it.
Dissatisfaction is defined as “The state or attitude of not being satisfied; discontent; displeasure” According to the telegraph, only 3 in 10 people in Britain are truly satisfied with their lives.
As depressing as that is, it’s probably quite a relief to know you’re not alone.
Luckily for you, (and 7/10 British citizens) you’ve already got access to the solution. All you’ve got to do is put it into practice.
It's called: Gratitude.
The Greater Good Magazine claims Gratitude is a biological mechanism. In its earliest forms, it served as a positive reward for reciprocity. It's important because it actively counteracts negative feelings and traits such as social comparison, envy, cynicism or even narcissism. Those who practice it regularly find it easier to retain positive memories, are generally happier, more satisfied, less prone to addiction, less prone to depression, and better at dealing with trauma. In fact, you might find that when you're feeling grateful, it's impossible to also feel dissatisfied - the two are mutually exclusive.
And I’m not just saying it’s important.
Various scientific studies have supported the idea that gratitude is very closely associated with satisfaction and positive behaviour.
In praising the benefits of gratitude, Harvard health publishing refers to a study that examined three groups of people for 10 weeks. Each week, one group was instructed to write about things they were grateful for, one was told to write about things that displeased them, and a third were instructed to write about anything that affected them in any way. The data revealed that those who expressed their gratitude every week were more optimistic about their lives. They also exercised more often and were reported to pay fewer visits to their physician in comparison to those who wrote about sources of displeasure.
“Several studies have supported the link between gratitude and prosocial behaviour. These studies have found that more grateful people are more helpful and generous.” Gratitude also plays a role in strengthening old relationships.
“A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes' self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs – which is a major factor in reduced self-esteem- grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.”
“Expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better.” -Harvard medical school
Gratitude refocuses one's attention towards the good things you do have rather than the things you don’t have. This is key in fighting dissatisfaction.
So how do you put it into practice?
Gratitude journaling (as done by the subjects of the first study) is the most recommended method. Gratitude journaling gives you a chance to sit down and reflect about the things you already have. It helps one to find happiness in the moment, and appreciate the wonders of life.
Practising mindfulness through the act of meditation can also help to cultivate gratitude. Focusing on the present moment and thinking about what you’re grateful for (i.e the softness of the clothes on your skin, the calming sound of the rain outside, or even simply for being alive) can help you to anchor yourself in gratitude.
(I’d like to note that Harvard Health Publishing lists both of these methods as suggestions for ways to cultivate gratitude)
Even just remembering to look around and consciously appreciate the things that make your life easier and more enjoyable is a perfectly effective way to actively express gratitude.
It’s important to remember that the process of self improvement is non-linear. Some days you might feel amazing and incredibly grateful, and others you might feel just the same as when you started. That’s okay! Be gentle with yourself. Conquering dissatisfaction involves self care and acceptance too. It’s impossible to be happy every day, but it is possible to find gratitude in even the worst of times. If we didn’t experience negative emotions then the good times wouldn’t be so special.
Some wise words: “How you experience life is a representation of what you feel about it.” -Kurzgesagt