Sometimes I hesitate to write about things like gratitude and appreciation because more than anything I want people to be real and practice owning how they feel. There is a subtle or not so subtle habit in the predominant Western culture to try to force happiness or be happy all the time. So one of the things I teach (especially in my emotions workshop) is how to be real with what’s up.
However, feeling appreciative is a very valuable skill that will help you feel happier and cultivate amazing relationships. It is a wonderful skill to have if you work as part of a team or you lead a team.
Imagine every situation/person/place is like a diamond—it has many facets. If we look at the example of the situation of walking your dog, we could zero in on any one facet of the diamond. The air temperature, the feeling of the body moving, the fresh air, the way the environment looks, the air quality etc. Any one of these could be your predominant focus.
Most of our minds are trained to look for what’s wrong, unsafe, or unpleasant. This is based on the evolution of the nervous system to keep us safe which is also amplified by the messages we’re sent through relationships, institutions, interactions, books, and media. But this is only part of the diamond. We could also look at what’s pleasant, beautiful, and good.
We can train the brain to make appreciation a habit—automatic. When we make It a habit we generally cultivate feelings of love and joy. It also makes it easier to work, play, and relate to others if we’re not swamped in seeing what’s wrong.
Where you might get stuck: It’s not that seeing what could go wrong or what’s unpleasant is bad or even not useful (at times it is), but if that’s all we’re seeing, we’re missing out on the rest of the diamond.
I’ve found this practice extremely useful in relationships personal and professional. It is so easy to get into cycles of basically hating or disliking people for not doing things your way, not being perfect, being late, making typos, and so many more things. If you find yourself being overly critical when interacting with people, see if you can view another part of the diamond—shift your perspective on the person. See if you can find one or two things you appreciate about the person and how they are in the moment. This can really stretch your normal way of thinking!
If you want to play with this more I’ve got a new recording of a meditation in my new self guided retreat: Sacred Rest. Check it out here!