Showing appreciation, being thankful and having an attitude of gratitude are features we increasingly see on wellbeing and personal development sites. It’s borderline #trending but why do we need to be reminded to say thank you – aren’t we all already doing so?
Gratitude: (gratitju:d) The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
The night before Thanksgiving, as I was drifting off to sleep, I got to thinking about how having a value of being thankful and having a habit of practicing gratitude are not the same thing. The thought had never occurred to me before! I wondered if making that distinction between the two could lead to helping others being able to experience life more fully.
Having a value of being thankful does not always run to having a conscious habit of practicing gratitude
All of us would I’m sure say that we are thankful for our family and friends and would express being grateful for our lives, homes, jobs; we have a ‘world view’ value of thankfulness. Those of us with kids, raise them to do the same, we make sure they know when it’s appropriate and expected to say ‘thank you’. As a result, by-and-large, we are programmed with the value of being grateful.
The shift in emphasis occurs when we move from passively considering ourselves to be ‘someone who is thankful’, to choosing to actively appreciate life daily.
Now if you’re thinking, “But what about when I don’t feel like it?” It’s a good question. Feeling grateful is not something that comes naturally, especially where there is no obvious motive to do so, such as a great day out or memorable day.
As humans, we tend to dwell on what’s not working out for us given we are hard-wired to be on the constant lookout for what’s wrong in order to survive. But here’s the thing:
when we are going through hard times, finding things to appreciate is easier than finding things to be grateful about and if we can focus on appreciation rather than on our tough situation, we can change our experience of it.
Years ago at my lowest, when life was coming apart at the seams and seemingly nothing was left intact, I would make myself get out outdoors for a walk. Often, amidst my personal hell of heartache and pain, I would deliberately find an appreciation for the nature around me.
Appreciation: (apre see-a shun) Recognition (and enjoyment) of the good qualities of someone or something.
I did not feel like being grateful in the and yet I could manage to appreciate just being outdoors and the day around me. More often than not, I would affirm: ‘Thank you for today, thank you for my health, thank you for my daughter, thank you we have a home, that we have food, a family who I know loves me…”
Practicing appreciation amidst our hard times plants seeds that blossom into a habit of gratitude and thankfulness.
The Power of Gratitude and Appreciation
Appreciation comes from the truth within us, focusing on what is, not what is not. The following are just some of the benefits that occur when we start to appreciate all that we have, and all that is good and true in life.
- We start to notice more of the same. Same deal as when you get something new and all of a sudden notice everyone else seems to have it too? Start to notice things you can appreciate and you’ll begin to notice even more.
- We take control of our wellbeing by the removal of it being conditional upon external circumstances going our way. We are in no shortage these days of stories of people who have survived the most horrendous atrocities who have such a deep appreciation for what really matters because of their deep connection to a source that could never be taken from them.
- Gratitude sets off a ripple. Like the stone in a pond, everything we appreciate sends an outwards vibration, which in turn, returns to us all vibrations of the same frequency.
Perspective is everything but when we’re going through hard times, we don’t need to be reminded others have it worse, we need a path through. Finding even the smallest things to appreciate turns our focus outward and becomes a foundational balance for our future wellbeing.