Counting Your Blessings Isn’t Enough

To be happy, learn to really appreciate the good in your life.

Posted Nov 19, 2018

Count your blessings is sage advice. Recognizing the good things in your life can bring you some measure of happiness in even the most difficult of times. But knowing your life is filled with good, positive experiences does not necessarily mean that you deeply appreciate them. And, by itself, it does not make your life better.

Carlotta Silvestrini/Pixabay
Source: Carlotta Silvestrini/Pixabay

Still, recognizing the good things in your life is important. It might mean being thankful for the good fortune you were born into, such as a loving family or some amount of financial prosperity; or at least not having suffered with poverty or childhood abuse. You may also be grateful for your good health, the beauty of the day’s sunset, or for the kindness of friends or strangers. There is much to appreciate if you only think to look for it.

But, as noted above, just being aware of the good things in life is not enough. You can still feel terribly unhappy, ungrateful, and possibly even guilty for feeling ungrateful. (This is its own kind of pain that is often unfairly judged – after all, who would want to feel this way when they have things to be grateful for?) So, it is essential that the goodness you see actually touches your heart.  You must be able to feel it.

To open yourself to the good things in life, try this:

Focus on something positive. It can be anything. For example, look at the beautiful plant outside your door or make note of your friend’s kind deed.

Shift your focus to your inner experience. Note any easing of tension, calmness, or sense of lightness. 

Linger over it. Even if it is only a slightly positive experience that’s no more than a blip in your awareness, allow yourself to acknowledge and truly experience it.

This comes relatively naturally to some lucky people, though most have to work at it. And, unfortunately, there are some who will feel that this is a Herculean task. For this latter group, life often feels bleak. Observing and giving any credence to positives can feel like a lie. If this describes you, it’s not that you can’t feel the goodness of life, but you may want to reach out for professional guidance.

For the vast majority of people, truly feeling appreciative, being grateful, or experiencing beauty takes practice. The more effort and focus you give it, the more easily these experiences will come to you, and the longer they will stay. So, don’t just count your blessings. Open your heart to them. Your efforts will pay off with a greater sense of well-being and happiness.

For more, check out this brief video:

Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset in Somerville, NJ. She is also the author of Insecure in Love. If you would like email notification of new posts, click here.

Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.

Personal change through compassionate self-awareness