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Appreciation, Defamiliatisation, Riutal & Learning to Shop


It sounds peculiar, and not a little patronising, to suggest that one of the major obstacles to contentment might lie in our failure to master the skill of appreciation.

Yet the fact remains that one of our major flaws and roots of unhappiness lies in our difficulty with recognising the worth of what is already to hand. Instead, we yearn, often fruitlessly, for the imagined attractions of other places, people and things.

We may already be far richer than we think; our dissatisfaction may not stem from the absence of what we long for, but from a failure to draw value from what we already possess.

Fortunately, appreciation is a skill rather than a gift; one made up of a series of component parts, which it is eminently in our power to bolster in ourselves through a range of practices…


Our dissatisfactions are partly caused by a dramatic facility to get used to things, by our mastery of the art of habituation. The key to existence is not to seek out what is actually new: it is to bring a fresh mindset to what we already know but have — long ago — forgotten to notice.


The point of a ritual is to mandate a set of actions and attitudes in order to get us into a valuable state of mind. It is a set of rules that, if we follow them carefully, will bring about a particular result; in this case, a state of heightened appreciation.

Learning to Shop

It sounds strange to suggest that we might need to learn how to shop. When we’re out to buy a present for someone else, we can often see that we don’t quite know what would really please them — and yet we never extend the same generous (and ultimately productive) recognition to shopping for ourselves.


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