Gratitude and Appreciation: Why We Should Indulge Daily

Apparently, appreciation is a big deal. Here are some tips to do it well.

Posted Oct 30, 2017

Photo by Penny James. Used with permission.
Source: Photo by Penny James. Used with permission.

In this increasingly digital world, where so much communication takes place over text, email, and VM, getting together face-to-face can be a very soothing and intimate act. Expressions of gratitude and appreciation for a loved one can melt the separation caused by long days at work, shuttling kids around, mindlessly doing household chores after a long day, and, in the case of couples, can be a excellent gesture that helps shift the gap between the tendency to veg at the end of the day and the desire to have some intimacy and connection before sleep. 

Feeling acknowledged is a basic human need. We all want to feel like we matter, contribute something, and are appreciated and valued by those we care about. Sitting across from your loved one, hearing what they value about you, and seeing care in their eyes, perhaps with their hand on your knee, is a much-needed balm in our hectic lives. Something no text or Snapchat can do.

So, how fortunate it is that expressing appreciation can be an easy way to combat the stress and negative messages we hear, both in our heads and from others? This is particularly important in marriage, where all couples experience some conflict.

John and Julie Gottman's research showed that it takes five positive statements to undo the effect that one negative comment has on us: “It is important to remember that negativity holds a great deal of emotional power, which is why it takes five positive interactions to overcome any one negative interaction. And these negative interactions happen in healthy marriages, too, but they are quickly repaired and replaced with validation and empathy.“

Photo by Yana Hoffman
Source: Photo by Yana Hoffman

So start taking some time to come down from brain fog and exhaustion, and put 10 to 15 minutes into an exercise that is proven to increase well-being: expressing gratitude and appreciation. Do this daily — perhaps at the dinner table with your family, or in bed just before sleep with your partner. Work toward making it a daily ritual. It will have far-reaching benefits that address our need for rhythm and consistency. And it helps us soothe and regulate in positive ways.

It goes like this:

Action Step

You and other(s) take turns expressing three things you are appreciative of or grateful for about the other(s). I like expressing all three, one right after the other. You can experiment with taking turns or expressing one at a time, and see which gives you more good “vibes.” And there’s a bonus! Giving appreciation boosts feelings of well-being for both the giver and the receiver.

Although a simple statement of appreciation does wonders, here are some guidelines to make it even more intimate and impactful.

1. Avoid “attributing” qualities to someone. It’s much more effective to say, “I appreciate when you smile at me in the morning,” than,“You are so generous when you smile in the morning.” Even seemingly positive statements about another can backfire. It’s limiting and confining, and you are really passing a judgment (even if you think it's a good judgment). What if they see what they did as an act of courage, because they were feeling vulnerable at that time? They are less likely to feel appreciated if you commend them for "generosity," when they were actually feeling "brave." So it’s much better to talk about the effect their behavior has on YOU than what you think they were feeling or thinking.

2. When expressing appreciation, go beyond simply acknowledging the “things” they do. Tell them why what they did was important to you. So, instead of just saying, "I really appreciated you taking out the garbage,” you can add, “Thank you for taking out the garbage; I felt cared about, because I didn’t have to worry about the garbage overflowing with dirty diapers." Or, “I so appreciated when you smiled at me this morning at breakfast. I felt special and enjoyed that you took the time to spend a special moment with me. I know you were busy, and I felt good when you took the time to connect.” Not every comment needs to be that long. You could also say, “I appreciate that you slowed down this morning to give me a smile, even though you were in a rush.” This lets the person know you are paying attention to THEM, what goes on in their world, and the effort they made. Another example could be, “I appreciated getting your text today; things were hectic, and the text reminded me that I have you in my life.”

3. Appreciate someone for their character. You might say, “I felt gratitude that even though you were upset with me, you took a breath and were calm before responding. I admire that you had the ability to do that.”

Get the idea?

Giving gratitude and appreciation each day positively affects how you feel within your own life — and also lets people know they are not taken for granted.

Are you single? Live alone or just need a extra hit of “feel good”? Harvard researcher and author Shawn Achor says, ”Something as simple as writing down three things you're grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism, and it holds for the next six months. The research is amazing."

So, come on, dare to be more intimate. Uplift both yourself and your relationship. It need only take a few minutes a day, and apparently, the mere act of searching your mind for something you are grateful for has positive effects on your mood, enjoyment of life, and well-being.

Leave me a comment and let me know how this works for you.