Gratitude is one of those concepts that’s spoken about a lot but rarely implemented.

Calling upon the wisdom of the Stoics yet again; Stoic philosophy employs negative visualisation as a tool to increase our levels of gratitude.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

– Epicurus

For example, imagine you’ve come home and found out that you’ve been burgled. They’ve taken everything. Now, most days we barely think about what we have, and it’s not until they’re taken away that we really appreciate the things in our lives.

The same practice can be done for any number of things; such as hot water, a warm bed, food, a computer, our health, our eyesight, etc

Putting ourselves in these hypothetical positions of loss helps us appreciate the things we have.

Memento Mori:

Death. It’s not normally something we’d sit around talking about over a beer. If anything, it’s an area of life that you and I probably avoid. However, counter-intuitively, thinking about death can help us live better, happier, and more present lives.

Here’s how:

Memento mori is a phrase that has spanned both time and culture. It’s been used in meditation and philosophy by people from the Stoics to the Buddhists, all in an effort to achieve more gratitude for life, and a perspective that makes our existence more vibrant.

Memento Mori translates from Latin as, ‘remember that you must die’.

It’s a reminder that your death is inevitable and that your time is limited. There will be a day where you and I won’t wake up to enjoy the beautiful chaos of life.

No matter where you are born, how rich you are, or what you do during your life, you will die. Death is simply change, and change is life.

Many of us will avoid thinking about death’s uncomfortable inevitability. The slow approach to the end. However, for those who know how to use it, the reality of death helps cultivate a greater appreciation of life.

Humor me for a moment and imagine that you only have one week left to live. I imagine that you have a list of things that you would do, people that you would spend time with, and places you’d go.

Memento Mori uses the same principle, but instead of one week, we have 80 odd years. Looking honestly at our mortality helps us clarify what’s important.

Stoic philosophers did not see death as a morbid idea to be avoided. It was an aspect of life to be accepted and used to appreciate each new day, remain grateful for the time we have, prioritise action, and not waste time.

Flip the thought pattern:

Our default thought patterns as humans normally flows along the path of wants. We look to the future and want more than what we have; faster cars, better clothes, a bigger house, more money etc.

I’m not saying these things are necessarily bad. What I am saying is that they don’t always make us happy.

One thing that does increase our happiness, whether you look at Stoicism or Buddhism, is being grateful for what we have now. One day we might not be so lucky, and today there are millions of people who aren’t.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Amor Fati

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