We all take certain things for granted, some more than others. We're so used to routines, comfort and luxuries that it's practically impossible to not take anything for granted. However, everybody knows that you should try to appreciate the good things in life, no matter how big or how small.
So how do you not take things for granted? How can you learn to appreciate the good things in your life more? Can you prevent yourself from turning into a person that doesn't even know how to say "Thank you" anymore?
In this article, I'll discuss why it's so important to not take anything for granted, and more importantly, how to actually do so.
Why it's good to not take everything for granted
What's the importance of not taking everything for granted?
There are multiple ways to look at it, if you ask me. From a personal perspective, you're less likely to connect with others if you take everything for granted. For example, if you never say thanks to a friend, that friend will be less likely to support you in times of need.
By taking things for granted, you're reducing the amount of positive feedback you're sending out to those around you. After all, if you take everything for granted, why would you ever compliment someone, or go out of your way to help someone?
But on a grander scale, the problem becomes bigger.
If everybody around the world took for granted the positive things in life, there would be serious consequences. People are quick to acknowledge when they're let down or disappointed. When people only hand out negative feedback to one another, the world would lose a lot of its positivity.
This is explained by a term called social reciprocity, which means that people respond to actions in a similar way. When you help someone out, the other person is likely to say thanks. On the other hand, when you give someone an angry look, that person is likely to become agitated by your actions.
This simple construct is what determines a lot of our society, and if we strip away the positive side of this equation, things will certainly go downhill.
So it's incredibly important to not take everything for granted. Not only will it help you make positive connections to those around you, it also has the effect of a chain reaction.
By not taking things for granted, you're able to influence those around you to be more positive in their interactions with others.
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Gratitude is the answer
If you know someone that takes most things for granted, you'll probably think of that person as ungrateful.
What's the opposite of taking things for granted? It's to be grateful for the positive things in your life. Therefore, one of the best ways to not take things for granted is to actually start practicing gratitude.
However, it's important to know that there's a difference between being grateful and actually expressing gratitude.
You can feel grateful by simply taking a second to think of the positive things that are happening to you. But as long as we don't actually express gratitude, you may still seem like a person that takes everything for granted.
For example, if a waiter hands you your drink, you're probably experiencing a positive emotion like joy. But if you don't actually express this positivity, your waiter is left stranded and leaves this interaction without a similar boost.
We should not conflate the feeling of gratitude with the act of expressing it.
Only by actually expressing our gratitude are we able to share the positive with those around us. Again, this is a crucial part of the way that social reciprocity works.
Unfortunately, this part is often forgotten. In this fascinating study, researchers found that only 15% of conversations include some form of the words "Thank you". This percentage was even lower for some other languages. This implies that there's even a difference in how often we express gratitude depending on the language we speak.
5 ways to not take things for granted
So how do you actually stop taking things for granted? How can you actually step up and act like the person you want to be?
Here are 5 ways to not take things for granted and to actually be a person that emits positivity.
1. Slow down
If you're constantly in a rush, you'll be more likely to forget to appreciate the good things in your life.
If you want that to change, it's important to slow down every once in a while in order to realize how many things there are to be grateful for.
A tip you can use to help you slow down is to stop multitasking. While multitasking is bad for more reasons than one, constantly switching between tasks puts you in a distractible state of never being fully present. In other words, by constantly being busy you're more likely to take things for granted.
Here's an article we published with more tips specifically on how to slow down.
2. Practice saying "Thank you"
Here's a question: do you thank your waiter when you get your drinks in a restaurant? Or when they ask you how your meal is?
If not, then that's something you can change. Even though it's their job to help you, the least you can do is to say "Thank you". No matter how much of a formality it is.
This applies to a lot of other situations that may seem meaningless:
- Give a thumbs up to another driver when they give way to you.
- Thank your colleagues for getting you a coffee.
- Thank your partner for cooking dinner.
- Say thanks to the cashier when paying for your groceries.
These are some of the easiest things to take for granted, as they happen on a daily basis. Not saying "Thank you" doesn't necessarily mean you're not grateful at all, but it does make you more likely to take things for granted.
Remember, expressing gratitude is more important than feeling grateful in these scenarios.
And if you've ever waited tables, you know how much of a difference it makes to hear a simple "Thank you" every now and then.
What you should do? Try to recognize whenever someone does something positive for you, no matter how small the instance. In other words, grasp every opportunity to say thank you.
It's better to say thank you needlessly than to not say anything at all.
3. Keep a gratitude journal
It's easy to take things for granted if we're not even aware of how much good there is in our lives. Gratitude journaling can help us with this.
Just take 5 minutes of your day, sit down with a journal and just list things that you're grateful for.
Practicing gratitude has been linked to a direct increase in happiness of 10%, as found by studies. It doesn't matter what you're thankful for, all that matters is that you think about it and acknowledge your gratitude.
Practicing gratitude, especially when feeling unhappy, keeps us anchored to a more rounded and positive view.
Our emotional subconscious believes whatever narrative our conscious mind feeds it. This is why incessant worrying can make us feel so bad emotionally. It’s also why changing that narrative with gratitude journaling can make us feel better.
Gratitude journaling is one of the best ways to not take things for granted.
4. Stop expecting others to do something for you
If you take something for granted, you're really just expecting something to simply be there whenever you need it.
Not only does this hurt your likeability, it also exposes you to potential disappointment.
For example, if you don't think your waiter deserves a simple "Thank you" while expecting top-notch treatment, there's a big chance you'll end up disappointed. This is related to the concept of social reciprocity that we discussed earlier in this article.
If you're unable to send out positive signals to others, you must realize that others are less likely to do the same for you.
When you lower your expectations, you'll surely find it easier to appreciate the good actions of others. If you're interested in learning to lower your expectations, here's a recent article that talks about living without expectations.
5. Be less materialistic and more frugal
We've mostly discussed the social impact of taking too many things for granted. But there's a materialistic side to this story as well.
If you're a materialistic person, you'll probably take more things for granted:
- That your smartphone is always running the latest software updates.
- That your social media posts always receive kind comments and numerous likes.
- Or that you stream your Netflix series in the highest definition, no matter how much extra it costs.
While these may be silly examples, it means that you're more prone to set high expectations.
Instead, if you try to be more frugal, you'll learn that these things are all luxuries. A person that takes most things for granted has a hard time learning the difference between luxuries and necessities.
One simple tip to be more frugal?
Wait a week before purchasing anything. If you still want it after the week has passed, then go ahead and buy it if you can spare the money.
This not only helps you manage your personal finances better, but the wait will also help you appreciate whatever it is you want. Then, when you finally get your hands on that new gadget, you won't take it for granted as much.
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Always taking things for granted not only makes you less likable. It also stops you from being grateful to others and negatively impacts the effect you have on others. By simply slowing down more and practicing gratitude, you'll find it easier to appreciate all the good you have in your life.
Now I want to hear from you. Do you have anything to add? Do you remember taking everything for granted, before you learned to be more grateful in life? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!