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We're wired to save indulgences for special occasions — here's why you shouldn't

Go ahead, open that special bottle of wine tonight for no reason.
To our friendship!
The “bigger better” keeps us waiting for a worthier occasion to finally open that bottle of top-shelf wine.AzmanL / Getty Images

Remember that bottle of fancy wine you splurged on a while back? The one that’s acquired a thin film of dust since you sat it on the shelf months, maybe even years, ago. At the time of purchase, you had every intention to drink it on a special occasion, but so far, no occasion has seemed quite special enough. Well, you’ve officially been granted permission to crack it open courtesy of Open That Bottle Night, an annual event that urges wine savers everywhere to just uncork it already.

The quasi-holiday serves one primary purpose: It finally provides a solid excuse to partake. But it elicits a deeper question, though. Why do we so often push off celebrations and indulgences? More importantly, what do we have to gain from honoring more of life’s tiny — even seemingly mundane — moments?

The “Bigger Better” Hold Off is Making You Miserable

There’s a “more is more” or “bigger better” mindset that permeates our culture. It’s apparent in the cars we go into debt for, the homes we buy, and the smart device upgrades we feel we need to make. It’s apparent in the messy vortex of online dating where we’re convinced a slightly more idyllic match is just a swipe away — despite the fact we’re talking to three perfectly wonderful humans already.

The 'bigger better' drive is buzzing in the background ... This mindset turns us into restless chasers.

The “bigger better” drive is buzzing in the background as we plan vacations, order dinner, try to lose weight, shop for clothes, and yes, while we keep waiting for a worthier occasion to finally open that bottle of top-shelf wine. This mindset turns us into restless chasers, or “I’ll be happy when…” addicts.

“Many of us pin our happiness on future events, achievements or desired outcomes when peace and joy — and quite frankly, our lives — are in the present moment,” says Joyce Marter, a licensed psychotherapist and national keynote speaker with over two decades of experience.

Edy Nathan, a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in grief, says the same.

“For many, happiness seems elusive. It’s there, yet we really don’t have a grasp on what it is, how to sustain it, maintain it, and keep it fed,” she says. “It’s like a hunger within, followed by a certain despair. If only I’m thin enough, or rich enough, or in a relationship. Then all will be well.”

The bottom line is that this discontentment stems from a “bigger better” mindset and the exhausting chase that accompanies it. Ongoing discontent in our lives have very little, if anything, to do with what we perceive as something “lacking.”

6 Ways to Find Happiness in Today

Both Nathan and Marter agree that the best way to shift away from this mindset is to engage in daily mindfulness practices that help you appreciate and celebrate everyday joys — however small. Doing so can help redirect attention from the future and back to the present.

  • Keep a gratitude journal: “Gratitude journals train your brain to look at the good parts of life. In your morning or evening meditations, reflection or prayer time, take notice of at least three things you are grateful for that day,” says Marter. “I also recommend giving special thanks to yourself for ways in which you took good care of yourself, such as taking the time to work out, making healthy food choices, organizing your closet or setting a boundary with a coworker.”
  • Try something new: “Do something outside of your comfort zone,” urges Nathan. “Your brain will respond by gifting you with new neural connections, which allow for growth and metamorphosis.”
  • Stop and smell the roses: Take moments throughout your day to look around and be present. Maybe you’re literally stopping to smell a flower patch (or pastries, or rain, or whatever smell makes you happy). Maybe you notice the way your child laughs at the silliest things, your partner’s sweet text, or a knick-knack you brought back from somewhere special.
  • Be in your body: Nathan says, “Stretch, dance shake, listen to your body. Access its power. It’s what you have to make your moves throughout the day. When you attend to it, it attends to you.”
  • Indulge in that thing you’ve been meaning to indulge in: Whether it’s a bottle of nice wine, a beauty product you rarely use, listening to your favorite podcast, or diving into that book. Give yourself permission to finally partake versus holding off for a “good reason” to do so.
  • Start a daily ritual: “Ritual is an important aspect to appreciation. It keeps us steady and aligned with parts of us that tend to disrespect the soul’s need to be heard,” says Nathan. Your ritual can be a morning walk, listening to music for 20 minutes in the evening, or reading a new poem every day at lunch. Whatever it is, allow yourself this moment.

“Being in the present allows us to more easily recognize the blessings around us at any given moment,” says Marter. “The beauty of nature, the feeling of a hearty laugh, the comfort of our soft bed. These practices are transformative and are a simple way change your life for the positive and create space for joy.”


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