How to Appreciate Life and Not Just Exist in It

George J. Ziogas

Image: Pasko Maksim/Adobe Stock

Do you live life? Or do you sit as it passes you by?

Are you making the most of things? Or are you merely existing?

Do you daydream, wondering what you’re doing, why you’re here or questioning whether there’s more to this life? More than just work, sleep, eating, and chores? Do you ever feel like the annoying things consume most of your time and you don’t get to enjoy life?

It’s easy to get caught up in the drama life brings. It’s easy to lose sight of what matters and what you care about. It’s even easier to miss out because you’re too stressed out, exhausted, or fed up. Where did this come from? This life we’ve been conditioned to lead — we have a path set out for us and we follow it without question.

That’s life — you go to college at 18 or you get a job, then you settle down and get married, then you have kids, and your daily routine becomes, work, home dinner, bed, and repeat. You might have to run errands and transport your children to after-school activities instead of enjoying a bit of television, but the point stands. How do you break out of that routine?

We lose sight of living life and focus on survival. To quote the famous Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde, “to live is the rarest thing in the world… most people exist, that is all.”

If you’re ready to break the mold and learn to dance in the rain, here are some ways that should help you appreciate life, instead of just existing in life.

Be Present

How aware are you of your thought process? Do you ever tune into your thoughts and question your inner narrative? Do you obsess over mistakes from your past? Do you envision your future? Or are you in the here and now?

While there are plenty of lessons to take from your past and there’s nothing wrong with having a vision for your future, you have to start living in the present. It’s right now that you can influence and you have to be present to appreciate life.

Experiment & Experience

What do you do to experiment and experience life? Do you take all of your allowed vacation time from work? If not, why? Part of the reason you’re watching life pass you by is that you don’t take enough time to stop and smell the roses. I would encourage you to take advantage of the paid time off you are due. With that time, make experiences.

You can go bigger when you’re off work, whether your budget allows you to go abroad or just enjoy simple more economical activities in your community, there’s plenty to do. Don’t just experience life with your paid time off. There are also the other 50 weeks of the year where you can experiment and experience life.

Think about how you spend your money — is it mostly spent on material items? If you can divert some of that into a special account meant just for experiences then do it. Then, use that money to create experiences (for you and your family).

There are all kinds of unique experiences that you can create, like backyard camping, cooking classes, weekend getaways, spa treatments at home, and others. Life is about creating incredible memories that last because you truly embraced the moment. Quality time is another way to look at this.

Do What Makes You Happy

Do you know what it is? You love playing the guitar, gardening, working on an old car, playing baseball, cooking, or whatever. You might have a bunch of different hobbies, but you never get a chance to do them. Why not? Make time to do what makes you happy! It might feel like it sometimes, but adulthood isn’t meant to be miserable.

You deserve to have fun, too! No matter what’s going on in life, find a way to make the time to play your new video game, book that full-body massage, or buy tickets to see your favorite team play. Make a conscious decision daily to do (at least) one thing that brings you joy.

Appreciate What You Have

Look at the house you live in, the roof over your head, and the four walls that provide you with a safe haven. While there might be a lot you dislike about your job, it provides you with the paycheck you need to pay for that house, to put gasoline in your vehicle, to put food on your table, and pay for your streaming services. You have a lot to be grateful for.

Moreover, you should appreciate the incredible people in your life! Think about the friends who support you, the family who loves you, the partner who backs you, and the children you made together. You’re so lucky to have what you have, and that’s easy to overlook if you don’t pay attention.

Stop & Smell The Roses

Incredibly, we live in a world where two popular sayings are completely contradictory — nothing in life comes free and the best things in life are free. The latter is true. You don’t have to spend a small fortune to enjoy this life. While money might make certain things easier, there are plenty of incredible moments that come at no cost. Stop and smell the roses from time to time.

Let Go

Are you the type of person determined to fix something that’s long broken? Are you the kind of person who holds a grudge for an eternity, even after someone apologizes unreservedly?

There’s an awful lot of conversation surrounding forgiveness and the need for it. A lot of people are fed up with entertaining the idea of forgiving toxic people. What’s lost from the conversation is nuance. You might convince yourself they’re not worthy of your forgiveness, but the reality is you are worthy of forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t about absolving someone else’s bad behavior, it’s about letting go of the anger and resentment that you have been holding onto as a result of someone else’s actions.

Just because someone apologizes to you doesn’t mean you need to extend an olive branch. But, you should work to heal the negative emotions that you’ve been left with as a result of their behavior, whatever it was.

Furthermore, ending a relationship (whether romantic, platonic, or familial) is not a failure. Sometimes you have to break things off with someone because they don’t bring you happiness, they drag you down, or abuse you. If someone is standing between you and happiness, then let them go.

Follow Your Heart

If you embrace spontaneity and make every day an adventure, then life will be as exciting and joyous as you make it. Or you can ignore the tug of your heartstrings, and life can be… nothing.

You can start making changes right now by listening more to the guidance of your heart. Appreciate every second of this life and savor the good times because the inevitability of life means there are going to be bad times. But those bad times make the good times that much sweeter.

To appreciate life instead of just existing in life, I hope you found something that truly resonates with you. With that in mind, a little recap before you go:

  • Start living in the present, because it’s right now that you can influence and you have to be present to appreciate life.
  • The best things in life are free, so stop and smell the roses from time to time.
  • You deserve to have fun, so make a conscious decision daily to do at least one thing that brings you joy.
  • You have a lot to be grateful for and that’s easy to overlook if you don’t pay attention.
  • If someone is standing between you and happiness, then let them go.
  • Embrace spontaneity and make every day of your life an adventure.
“There’ll be two dates on your tombstone and all your friends will read ’em but all that’s gonna matter is that little dash between ’em.” — Kevin Welch

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HR Consultant | Life Coach | Freelance Writer | Delivering content with the reader’s interests in mind.

New York, NY

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