The Greek Philosopher Epicurus sums it up so simply and yet eloquently with this quote. If you can’t appreciate the little things in life you will not appreciate anything. Did you enjoy that cup of coffee or tea this morning, walking the dog, cleaning your kitchen, or taking a shower? These are simple examples of little things you might do in the morning and if you gained some sense of satisfaction or joy from them, then you are living in the present moment and you have some sense of what it is like to be grateful for even small things.
What if instead, you can’t find any pleasure in the simple things that are most typical in our lives? You would then be someone that is consumed by thoughts of the future, seeking something better, and likely never satisfied with anything or anyone. We can all shift into this mindset from time to time, and then we become ungrateful, egotistical, and greedy. Your life will now consist of periods of suffering and discontent, followed by spending your precious time criticizing everything. Nothing is ever good enough, everyone is a jerk, and life sucks.
Contrary to what you see in the media or on Instagram, life is not some highlight reel where every day is a party, and people are throwing money at you. Instead most of what we call life is made up of little things. If you allow your mind to drift into future mode, then you miss all the little things, and you basically are missing out on life. The quote below by Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of my favorite quotes for helping us to appreciate all the little things in our life.
Sometimes you just need to reboot your brain and one of the best ways I found is to go for a walk. This allows you to breathe the fresh air, look at the sky, feel the sun on your skin, and soon you begin to calm down and start living in the present. Walking is a healthy alternative to sitting around and watching television or messing around with your phone. When I go for a walk I’m not doing it to burn calories or increase my heart rate, in fact, I am really doing quite the opposite, and sometimes walk fairly slowly just enjoying the sights around me.
Walking is a little thing, but be grateful as it is also a wonderful thing. Your life is made up of hundreds of little things and they all have the potential to be a great source of joy if you stay present and mindful.
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A bit about Epicurus
Epicurus (Ancient Greek: Ἐπίκουρος, romanized: Epíkouros;[a] 341–270 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher and sage who founded Epicureanism, a highly influential school of philosophy. He was born on the Greek island of Samos to Athenian parents. Influenced by Democritus, Aristippus, Pyrrho, and possibly the Cynics, he turned against the Platonism of his day and established his own school, known as “the Garden”, in Athens. Epicurus and his followers were known for eating simple meals and discussing a wide range of philosophical subjects. He openly allowed women to join the school as a matter of policy. Epicurus is said to have originally written over 300 works on various subjects, but the vast majority of these writings have been lost. Only three letters written by him—the letters to Menoeceus, Pythocles, and Herodotus—and two collections of quotes—the Principle Doctrines and the Vatican Sayings—have survived intact, along with a few fragments of his other writings. Most knowledge of his teachings comes from later authors, particularly the biographer Diogenes Laërtius, the Epicurean Roman poet Lucretius and the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus, and with hostile but largely accurate accounts by the Pyrrhonist philosopher Sextus Empiricus, and the statesman and Academic Skeptic Cicero.
For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to help people attain a happy, tranquil life characterized by ataraxia (peace and freedom from fear) and aponia (the absence of pain). He advocated that people were best able to pursue philosophy by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that the root of all human neurosis is death denial and the tendency for human beings to assume that death will be horrific and painful, which he claimed causes unnecessary anxiety, selfish self-protective behaviors, and hypocrisy. According to Epicurus, death is the end of both the body and the soul and therefore should not be feared. Epicurus taught that although the gods exist, they have no involvement in human affairs. He taught that people should behave ethically not because the gods punish or reward people for their actions, but because amoral behavior will burden them with guilt and prevent them from attaining ataraxia.
Like Aristotle, Epicurus was an empiricist, meaning he believed that the senses are the only reliable source of knowledge about the world. He derived much of his physics and cosmology from the earlier philosopher Democritus (c. 460–c. 370 BC). Like Democritus, Epicurus taught that the universe is infinite and eternal and that all matter is made up of extremely tiny, invisible particles known as atoms. All occurrences in the natural world are ultimately the result of atoms moving and interacting in empty space. Epicurus deviated from Democritus in his teaching of atomic “swerve”, which holds that atoms may deviate from their expected course, thus permitting humans to possess free will in an otherwise deterministic universe.
Though popular, Epicurean teachings were controversial from the beginning. Epicureanism reached the height of its popularity during the late years of the Roman Republic. It died out in late antiquity, subject to hostility from early Christianity. Throughout the Middle Ages Epicurus was popularly, though inaccurately, remembered as a patron of drunkards, whoremongers, and gluttons. His teachings gradually became more widely known in the fifteenth century with the rediscovery of important texts, but his ideas did not become acceptable until the seventeenth century, when the French Catholic priest Pierre Gassendi revived a modified version of them, which was promoted by other writers, including Walter Charleton and Robert Boyle. His influence grew considerably during and after the Enlightenment, profoundly impacting the ideas of major thinkers, including John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Jeremy Bentham, and Karl Marx.