Practicing the act of appreciation – by choosing to think about what you have instead of what you want – makes life easier, happier, and healthier. The beautiful thing about appreciation is that the effect is immediate, profound, and always benevolent.
Appreciation triggers positive feelings. It is a mental action – an act of cognition – that acknowledges the value of a thing. That thing can be both subjective or objective.
Appreciation is an occurrent action and not a potential that must be possessed. But when practiced repeatedly, it develops a capacity for gratitude that improves your mental and social wellbeing.
You have countless reasons to be grateful and the moment you do, it immediately triggers positive feelings. However, you should view it not as an emotion but rather as a trigger to positive feelings like empathy, joy, and happiness.
For instance, giving thanks to a friend or genuinely appreciating his or her help can also give you a feeling of happiness.((Harvard Health Publishing: Giving thanks can make you happier)) These feelings can grow into emotions that create values and virtues over time.
All these originate from the realization that you constantly benefit from 1) the planet’s resources and 2) other people’s knowledge and experiences.
Not being able to express appreciation is one of the causes of ignorance. Taking things for granted is a bad attitude that diminishes the quality of gratitude.
Here is how you can change this.
Appreciation or Gratitude?
Gratitude has many definitions and many philosophers argue about what gratitude is; when the beneficiary is ought to express it and to which degree, and which positive or negative feelings or emotions it may produce.((Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Gratitude))
There is also a difference between appreciation and gratitude.
Appreciation is more seen as a means of communication. You can fake it, even if you shouldn’t. You can say you appreciate something even if you really don’t.
Gratitude cannot be faked – either you feel grateful or you don’t.
In our context, appreciation is something more superficial – a mental action of a short-term duration – used rather lightly in everyday parlance. We mostly use it out of habit to show politeness but we cannot feel its power profoundly.
Whereas gratitude is a phenomenon of great depth – a power that reaches deep into our hearts.
But it doesn’t help if we lose ourselves into endless analyzations and argumentations about such a complex phenomenon.
We should rather just stick to the fact that gratitude, as a philosophical concept, is subjective and can express its power only to the degree of the individual’s capacity.
This intrinsic capacity cannot be attained through reading academic papers or listening to the personal opinions of some authorities (which both, without doubt, have their fair share in the field). But it is ought to be developed through self-practice, inward observation, and contemplation.
Only then can gratitude express its power effectively.
One Simple Way to Appreciate What You Have and Be Happier
How can we express appreciation and feel deep gratitude about it?
3 Mental Actions to Prepare Your Mind for Appreciation
You can use the power of appreciation to put an order in your mind – making it organized, focused, and clear.
These three mental actions will improve your intrinsic values and overall mental wellbeing.
1. Use Your Past Instead of Letting It Use You
Before appreciating something, you need to recall a specific thought or event that lies in the past, like “this was a great help from this person”, or “I am so glad it’s sunny today,” and so on.
Focusing on recalling positive memories to express appreciation allows you to use your past in a beneficial, constructive way.
More importantly, with this mental action, you learn how to deal with your past and distinguish useful memories from useless ones and recall only the ones you can appreciate.
2. Recognize and Enjoy
At the very moment of recalling a positive memory, there is the act of cognition taking place. This is the moment where you acknowledge the “thing” as valuable and beneficial, resulting in appreciation.
This recognition fills up your present moment with gratefulness and enjoyment, which at the same time creates a past of positive nature.
This mental action builds a strong mental foundation, where you can achieve mental clarity and eventually recognize and enjoy some of your personal powers.
With this practice, you can express appreciation for literally anything you think is of significance to you. As a result, you develop a greater capacity for gratitude.
3. Build Valuable Prospects
In the moment of being in a grateful state of mind, there is a feeling of calmness, safety, and stability. That moment opens up an opportunity for a greater vision of what is important in your life and motivates you to take a courageous step and build valuable prospects for your future.
The practice of the three mental actions will aim your thoughts in the right direction and create a constructive mental movement. Your mind gets sharper.
This practice is also great for reducing mental stress quickly and naturally.
Develop Gratitude Through Appreciation
Apply any of your personal truths or facts in the Mental Action #2.
- Sit still and concentrate on your body.
- Apply Mental Action #2. For example, recognize that you feel no physical pain in your body.
- Express appreciation for your health and enjoy that moment.
- Dwelling on this recognition, witness your present moment with gratitude and observe its capacity growing within you.
This practice can trigger a number of positive feelings and emotions, which will end up taking you to the state of serenity.
You know this profound state of feeling calm, peaceful, and untroubled – where nothing matters and everything is just fine because all that matters is that peaceful, harmonious state of being?
This state doesn’t require the illusion that everything in life has to be positive and perfect. Harmony is the balance between good and bad.
Capture this moment – this state of serenity, and use it to your advantage.
Everyone’s goal is to remain in the state of serenity for as long as possible, no matter what type of personality one has and what activities one does. The point here is:
- To recognize the power of gratitude that has brought the serenity upon you.
- Be grateful for the capability of your recognition.
The benefit is twofold.
Why Appreciation Is Important
To appreciate what you have, like your health, achievements, and so on, is important. But equally important is the fact that genuine appreciation is one of the key qualities for a healthy social life.
Regardless of your personality type, you can always use appreciation to maintain and improve healthy social relationships.
Expressing appreciation is an important element for enhancing some of the most important social skills like relationship management, respect, and empathy.
As mentioned before, appreciation must be expressed genuinely – it cannot be just a mere appreciation communicated as some rhetoric technique. The mere appreciation might leave an impression, but it can never develop a capacity of gratitude.
Furthermore, when you truly appreciate what you have, you develop your affection towards it at the same time. This, in turn, enhances your empathy and you become more capable of listening to and sharing other people’s feelings. When you find yourself in this empathic state of being, you automatically mitigate the risk to behave inappropriately – a great method to eliminate bad attitude.
On the other hand, you can also appreciate what you don’t have like a disease or other malady. You learn to appreciate that life hasn’t given you anything you can’t handle like some desire or a job you wish for but aren’t ready to commit to yet.
I am concluding again the benefits of the first exercise with the three mental actions as shown above:
- Use your past in a smart way by finding positive memories and save yourself the dissipation of your mental energy.
- Practice your capability of cognition by identifying all possible things to be grateful for and enjoy them to the fullest.
- Ignite your imagination by creating your next constructive mental move with enthusiasm and motivation.
Practice this exercise continuously and your mind will sharpen. Remember, expressing appreciation and feeling gratitude is a mental activity – it can be done anywhere, anytime, quickly and efficiently.
You can use it as a sort of prayer – addressing it to a higher power or applying any esoteric meaning that works for you. Once your capacity of gratitude has grown, it’ll become easier for you to find joy even in the smallest things.
You will find a way to appreciate anything that life confronts you with because gratitude can teach you how to count your blessing and not your burdens.((Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life))
Your life is (or will become) serene. You should appreciate what you have because you have a lot.