Each year around the time of our American Thanksgiving, many people focus on having an “attitude of gratitude.” There is a lot of value to be derived from the practice of finding things to be grateful for. And, to me, there is even further benefit from the practice of finding what there is to appreciate in any given circumstance.
I see gratitude as looking for things to feel good about. While appreciation is looking for ways to feel good about anything. Gratitude wants to see what appears to be good or what already feels good and focus on that. Appreciation wants to see whatever is happening, good or bad, in ways that feel better and better.
In essence, appreciation illuminates the silver lining.
Appreciation is the tool that helps us employ the universal law of polarity to feel better regardless of our circumstances. The law of polarity states that for every thing — every situation, every relationship, every occurrence — there is a potential “good” and a potential “bad” available in it.
Most of us, when we experience something we would call “bad,” get fixated on the problem of it. Whereas, when we can find what there is to appreciate about it, we will more quickly feel better about it, which has us more primed to find a solution than when we are kvetching and focused on the negative.
One point to clarify here is that feeling “better” does not necessarily mean feeling “joyous” or “peaceful”; it simply means having some relief from the intensity of your negative viewpoint and the resulting emotions. Feeling “better” can be a subtle shift, which is all you need to continue moving in a direction of improvement. One subtle shift after another and you are on your way to happy and zen.
So to start finding ways to appreciate whatever you’re in the middle of, begin asking yourself these questions:
- “What can I appreciate about this?”
- “What value is available to me in this?”
- “What are the opportunities I can see in this?”
We formulate these as questions to help the brain discover new answers. When we try to make ourselves find the silver lining the brain has a tendency to rebel. However, when we ask questions, the mind can actually open up to see things in a new way.
With practice, the illumination you find through appreciation will set you on a path to thriving in ways you didn’t imagine were possible, and your life will naturally be more rich, fun and fulfilling. Let it be easy and enjoy!
For further illumination about this concept, here are some examples from my own life to help your brainstorming process:
*I got injured earlier this year and went from training daily for a body transformation challenge to not even being able to walk a block to the store and not being able to carry as much as a handbag. What I found to appreciate in this circumstance was: (1) I had a lot less laundry to do without all my workout clothes in the hamper, (2) I got to let myself be lazy and lounge around sans guilt, (3) my schedule had less demands on it without squeezing in time at the gym, (4) I learned that I can rely on healthy eating to maintain my weight in the absence of exercise, (5) I met new people to connect with and enjoy in the process of seeking help with my recovery, and (6) I got to splurge on a new, organic bed and plush pillows!
*My 16-year-old step-daughter came from North Carolina to live with us full-time in our 2-bedroom apartment this year. With the new family dynamics and the space challenges, what I’m finding to appreciate in this circumstance is: (1) I get more time to be together with my husband since we are now operating primarily in either the dining/living room or our bedroom (where we set up a little “office” space), (2) I have the opportunity to experience what it is to be a “parent” which helps me better understand others, (3) I am developing my generosity, patience and compassion in new ways, (4) in juggling greater family needs, my awareness of my own feelings, needs and desires is highlighted which helps me learn to honor them more, (5) by being on the “other side” I have the opportunity to heal the wounds I acquired with my past step-family experience in my childhood, and (6) I get to (and it’s a privilege) be part of my step-daughter’s life and developmental process and come to know her on a whole new level!
*Someone in my family-of-origin said things that felt disrespectful to me. What I found to appreciate about that was that it made me aware that I have developed enough sense of self-worth to feel deserving of respect.
*Traffic was really slow and backed up when I wanted to get somewhere quickly. What I found to appreciate was that I could slow down and didn’t have to rush. I could actually relax, take my time, listen to music, daydream.
*Minnesota winters are freezing cold and snowy messy (most people who live here just complain about them, even though this is not new news – same every year!) What I appreciate about the coldest days is that they are usually the sunniest. What I appreciate about the snow is that it is beautiful and I get to be in the Snow Globe! I am also reminded to appreciate my warm home and dry bed.