“Misfortune weighs most heavily on those who
expect nothing but good fortune” – Seneca
One may get used to nearly anything quite quickly. As a consequence, such an adaptation and rush or even lust for the new and fresh may weaken the feeling of thankfulness for the present, for today. All the desired future situations, possessions, ideas or acquaintances may blur the mind and narrow or even block the ability to see and admire the beauty of the present, the existence itself. Life is the greatest gift one is ever given. Shouldn’t it be the greatest meaning of life to adore and nurture it as the most precious treasure ever found? Surprisingly often the most important things are taken for granted.
How often one feels deep appreciation for being alive?
…Being able to feel, see, run, talk, laugh, fantasize…
A healthy, happy and meaningful life is for those who are aware and know how to appreciate it and feel grateful for the beauty and joy of being alive. The meaning of the Ancient Greek word ευγνώμων (=grateful/thank you) goes further than just recognition and thankfulness of all good and beneficial that may happen in one’s life. It consists of εύ + γνώμη which might be roughly translated into well/good + opinion/thinking. Simply put, it means the cultivation of well thinking, the shaping of good opinion as well. What and how one thinks, feels, acts and generally experiences life is profoundly influenced by the attitude towards life, by the ideas and notions that are rooted or wired into one’s mind. Ευγνώμων shows the path to explore and dive into the fascinating feeling of being satisfied and joyful in life. Furthermore, through awareness, recognition, thankfulness and positive attitude it reminds and invites each of us to cultivate a better person within, to search for inner beauty and to build a strong will to create something good and positive.
A powerful mental technique meant to evoke gratitude for life is negative visualization. If practiced regularly, it gives support to overcome “hedonistic adaptation” (getting used to what one has, quickly returning to the certain level of happiness), it reinforces and increases the level of satisfaction with the current reality. Moreover, this single tool may help to vividly see and set priorities, clear the mind from all the unnecessary thoughts and worries, learn to master the mind and all emotions by putting reason above the reflexive emotions. It opens the gate to deeper appreciation and greater joy.
Practically, this type of visualization shares some basic principles that are common to all creative imagery (relaxation, present time, personal meaning etc.). The main difference, as opposed to positive visualization, is that negative visualization calls to define fears instead of goals or the desired situation. It guides through the process of reflecting on the worst case scenario which forces to remind oneself of what could be lost and what shouldn’t be taken for granted. E.g. imagine how you would feel if you lost your beloved ones, your current health, job, possessions etc.
“We should love all of our dear ones… but always with the thought that we have no promise that we may keep them forever – nay, no promise that, even that we may keep them for long” – Seneca
Like a wake up call, it warns one to accept things and people as they are, appreciating the reality as it is today, accumulating joy and thankfulness for what has been experienced until now, overflowing with beautiful emotions for the experience of the present time, realizing the fragility of the impermanent physical life one is given.
This instrument of practical pessimism, works as a mental training tool to clear the ground for any future outcome as well. Negative visualization goes further than appreciation of current reality through ‘worst case scenario’. The second part of this technique is devoted to prepare oneself for any change or major event in life. After having defined what one fears most, one should examine what could be done to avoid or minimize the unwanted effects. Simply, ask ‘what actions can I take?’ In this manner one is teaching the mind to explore the ways to get ready for any important situation, to overcome any difficulties or disturbances in life, to focus on essential matters without being distracted or negatively affected by any turn of events. Seneca highlights – bad things often happen to those who are least prepared…