Feeling whiny? Try intentional deprivation.
We are living in a time when it is ridiculously easy to obtain things. Thanks to the internet, you can have almost anything shipped to you, including live animals, food-grade insects, teeth whitening solution, furniture, boats, and food. You can even send a glitter bomb to someone you hate.
Taking our luxuries for granted
When I was growing up on a farm in rural Vermont in the 80’s, getting “things” (if they existed) was not quite so easy. There was no internet (that was known to anyone outside the government). There was one tiny department store 30 minutes from me that had nothing but your basic hideous clothing selection, toiletries and household items. When you owned something, you took care of it because you didn’t now when you could get another one. (Also, the price of things reflected the actual cost of making it, unlike today when people and the environment pay the hidden costs.) And consequently, things were made with quality because they were difficult and expensive to replace.
Today there are just mounds of shit everywhere. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@elsiegilmore” suffix=”#toomuchcrap”]The planet can hardly contain the loads of worthless crap we all own or have thrown away.[/inlinetweet] We assume every household in America has running water, several television sets, a dishwasher, a music system, closets full of clothing and As-Seen-On-TV purchases, and tons of computer equipment. We also assume this is how everyone around the world lives. In reality, these items are often either luxuries for the wealthy or not available at all.
About one quarter of the world’s population (or 1.5 billion people) do not have access to electricity. 780 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. When your cable is out, and you think you’re suffering, chew on those facts.
After moving to my current apartment, I stepped into the shower to take my first refreshing bathe. The pressure was so low that I was barely able to rinse the shampoo from my hair. As someone who holds stress in her shoulders, I need the water to pound against my hardened muscles, not gently splash over them. I was devastated.
I was also really busy, so I didn’t attempt to address the issue for months. I did some research on showerheads and water pressure, and eventually decided to buy a new showerhead even though I wasn’t convinced that was the issue. During that time, I took dozens of very unsatisfying showers. Every shower I took felt like a personal insult – as if the shower was reminding me how impotent my life felt at that time.
A month after buying the showerhead, a friend was visiting who agreed to install it for me. My next shower experience was orgasmic. Because I was able to compare my old shower situation to this new one, my showers became pleasing not only physically but spiritually as well. When I shower now, I honestly feel a sense of gratitude wash over me (pun intended). (I also told my friend that I now think of him every time I take a shower.) Imagine how grateful someone with no running water would be to merely have my old, limp shower?
Challenge yourself to feel gratitude
If you find yourself whining and complaining about your life and how hard it is, take this challenge. Deprive yourself of something extremely convenient and satisfying for a month. 30 days of no car use, no dishwasher, no television, or no use of any kitchen appliances (big or small) other than the stove/oven and fridge. Try not using your shower at all for a month – only your bathtub (if you have one) and sinks for sponge baths. Try not buying anything new for a month or not eating out for a month or not using your internet for a month.
Pick something you’ve complained about or something that adds a great deal of “convenience” to your life. I guarantee that after the 30 days is up, you will experience gratitude to have that luxury back in your life. Or, in some instances, maybe you’ll realize that that thing doesn’t add any real value to your life and that you can happily live without it.