I am lucky that I have a partner that I love spending time with. For more than eight years, we worked together and lived together, something that other couples told us would be their worst nightmare but it suited us. We travelled the world, sharing experiences and making memories together. Despite the amount of time spent in each others company we also spend time apart. I sometimes go places without Iain (Bhutan, Miami, Dubai and Abu Dhabi this year) and Iain frequently travels to visit and stay with his family without me. As we no longer work together, there are periods of time when he is away and it’s not long before I find I’m missing him.
Missing people and things is a great opportunity to think about what exactly it is that you miss and create feelings of gratitude and appreciation. There is overwhelming evidence that the ‘attitude of gratitude’ is linked with happiness and flourishing but we generally adapt to things and tend not to notice them – until they are gone. We can even miss things we don’t like about people when they are no longer there. For instance, in the next few weeks at the beginning of the academic year, there will be mothers who miss the noise, mess and company of their teenage children who have left home to start university. Some spouses who are separated by divorce or bereavement say that on reflection they miss the comfort of their partner next to them, despite the snoring and/or their hogging of the bedclothes.
We can develop the Art of Missing to help us be more appreciative of things we usually take for granted. When the house is full of guests, we can appreciate the peace and quiet of our own company, and conversely when the it is peaceful and quiet we can appreciate the company of friends and family. When I have a client who is struggling to find the motivation to diet, or exercise or give up smoking I ask them this question, “How would you feel if you were told that you could never eat healthily / go for a long walk / that you had to smoke forever?”. Suddenly, they feel resistance and realise that if those choices were taken away from them, they’d miss them. We miss what we don’t or can’t have and unfortunately sometimes we discover this when it’s too late to do anything about it.
Some people feel they are missing something but don’t know what it is and consequently their life feels flat and dull. They are not depressed but they don’t feel happy either. Often, this is because they are in the state of ‘languishing’, a positive psychology term for the place between depression and despair and happiness and flourishing. What is often missing, is meaning and purpose in life. Without these two things life can feel pointless.nEvoking feelings of gratitude and appreciation are a great way to overcome this condition and feel good about life again.
Sometimes, we are so focussed on the negative that we fail to see the positive. Even a boring job might be missed if it meant not spending time in the company of people you care about. Think about the people and things in your life. What would you miss most if it or they were gone?
Please note: I am an early riser and frequently wake up with thoughts and questions on my mind. I write them down and record them in these short unedited, un-researched, unscientific bits of writing. They are written in a half asleep hypnopompic state and should not be regarded as anything more than what they are – random thoughts and musings. For sensible subjects and writing please visit Positive Psychology Learning website