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How important is oxygen to you? What is it like to have drinking water, a house, and internet? Of course, you would say very important but how many times do you value these kinds of things that are always there? Things that are always present or absent to us and hardly or never change are “constant variables”. It’s hard to value these relatively constant variables in our lives. From a personal perspective, I believe that these variables are often neglected or underrated. In this blog I want to raise awareness of the importance of the constant variables in our lives. Furthermore, I will give some examples on how you can increase your appreciation of constant variables. And lastly, I will talk about some relevant issue’s we face concerning constant variables.
Why constant variables are important
There are two types of constant variables that are important to your appreciation of life. The first one is “variables that don’t exist to you” and the second one is “the variables that are always there”. I will discuss these below.
What if things don’t exist to you?
According to my data, I am most happy when I am on holiday. Being at a beautiful (and personally undiscovered) place, equals fun to me. I know that a lot of people experience the same feelings of happiness during holidays. Suppose, I have a friend who doesn’t know what holiday is, and no one tells him what holidays are (and suppose that holiday makes everyone a little happier). Then, this friend is not aware of the happiness that holiday can give him, and he couldn’t imagine what holiday is like. The variable ‘holiday’ does not exist to him.
How many variables in our life don’t exist to us? We cannot answer this question, because we have no clue. we can’t experience the effects of certain drugs without trying them, and we can’t experience the trance state of musicians without playing an instrument first. I never learned to play an instrument very well. The happiness that playing an instrument can bring me just doesn’t exist to me. I have never experienced this trance-state (I can hardly describe it).
Things that are always there
Two years ago, I was a student and made some extra money next to my studies and had few savings. I had enough money to life by because I didn’t spend that much. Therefore, I didn’t look at my bank credit too much because my credit hardly changed dramatically. One day, I missed my girlfriend who was studying abroad and I decided to visit her at the other side of the planet. As you know, flight-tickets are expensive but I decided to go. However, the second day, my laptop broke and I really needed to buy a new one for my studies. I bought a new laptop but I had hardly any money left on my bank-account. Instantly, money became a problem. I worried a lot about having enough money. At that moment I experienced the pain that many families experience every day. The variable ‘money’ that was always constant to me, just changed and became a huge factor to me. Luckily, I managed to borrow some money from my parents and managed to pay them back soon after.
From this experience, I learned how blessed I actually am with the money I (usually) own. Because money was always (relatively) constant and present to me, it did not really exist to me. Therefore, I didn’t appreciate money that much, just as the presence of my parents who were able to support me. As for today, I am hardly aware of several other constant variables like the impact of my family and friends around me, the house that I live in and the job I have. And lets not forget the presence of oxygen, water, and the food that is superfluous to me. I cannot imagine what it would feel like when these variables change or completely disappear.
How to appreciate constant variables
It is crazy how we neglect and dis-appreciate the constant things that have such a tremendous impact on us. Therefore, I described some things you can do to increase your appreciation of the constant variables in your life.
Try before you die
To become more aware of your constant blessings, you could experience new things that you have never done before. You can finally try out an instrument for the first time, or you can start performing a sport you have never done before. On the other side, you can also cut-off constant things that are always present to you. How is it to spend less than 5 dollars a day? How is live without your phone? I encourage you to try something that fits you most.
Every day you could start to think about the constant variables that are present in your life (like your family, friends, house, or government). Being grateful and appreciating all the things that you got is a powerful tool to increase your happiness. It is very easy and just needs five minutes a day. Mindfulness practitioners often do this when waking up in the morning or when going to bed at night. The five minute journal is a good practice to increase your daily gratefulness.
Relevant issue’s concerning constant variables
I will discuss three relevant issue’s concerning constant variables. There must be more but these were the first ones I thought of.
Comparison between people
Because of the decremented appreciation of constant variables it is very hard to measure their impact. A man can have a million dollar bit still be unhappy. How could you compare the happiness of this millionaire with a poor African man’s happiness? They are living in entirely different circumstances. Therefore, in most studies, scientists divide well-being in emotions and moods (affects), and life-evaluation (source and read more). We might suggest that we humans tend to forget our life-evaluation but focus more on our emotions and moods.
Hard to make predictive models
Because constant variables hardly ever change in our lives, they hardly contribute anything to our life subjectively. If you want to make a predictive model that would predict your well-being over time, you would not include “presence of drinking-water” as a predictive variable because it would not contribute to the outcome. However, if drinking-water suddenly becomes absent or limited it does contribute a lot to your well-being. Because your model didn’t include “presence of drinking-water”, the model will reduce its predictive capacities. Of course, the presence of drinking water is easy to trace back over time (when interviewing the subjects) but hard to predict.
Lack of action
When things are relatively constant like our climate, internet or the presence of drinking-water we don’t appreciate them that much. Therefore, it is less likely for us to take action to sustain them because we don’t appreciate them. This is exactly what is happening today with climate change, we were too late with trying to sustain our climate. Furthermore, because I can hardly imagine the disastrous effects of climate change, I am less likely to take action. Luckily, that makes me happy today instead of worried all the time (haha).