- It is easy to fall into the trap of focusing too much on irritating but ultimately trivial things in life.
- Research has shown the power of gratitude and appreciation in promoting well-being, health, and positivity.
- Find a way to remind yourself to stay appreciative of the good and truly important things in your life.
Today, I was complaining about something very trivial when my partner turned to me and reminded me that right now I have little to complain about and would likely be better off feeling a bit more appreciation. "Isn’t that what you teach everyone else in your positive psychology book?" she chided me, in a way that reminded me to practise more of what I preach.
She was right, of course. In the hassle and stress of everyday life, we can too easily fall into the trap of focusing too much on the irritating but ultimately trivial things in life. What we really need is to stay mindful of the good and truly important things in our lives.
Over two decades of research have shown us the power of gratitude and appreciation in promoting well-being, health, and positivity in our relationships. I've been involved as a researcher in some of the studies myself, such as one in which we even found out that more appreciative people slept better.
Checking in with ourselves regularly about our level of appreciation seems like a good idea. I’ve developed the following checklist of seven statements to help us on the road to developing a more appreciative personality. Read each one. Would you agree that it sounds just like you? Be honest with yourself.
- I am the type of person who often reflects on how fortunate they are.
- I am the type of person who feels awestruck when they see natural beauty.
- I am the type of person who uses personal rituals to remind myself to be thankful.
- I am the type of person who can stop and enjoy life as it is.
- I am the type of person who, when I see others who are less fortunate, realises how lucky I am.
- I am the type of person who says "thank you" to show my appreciation and means it.
- I am the type of person who often reflects on how important my friends and family are to me.
How many did you think described the type of person you are? If you thought all seven statements sounded like you, then you have a very appreciative personality. Typically, however, most of us have room to develop our ability to lead an appreciative life. You may have found yourself stopping at each question, pondering it, asking yourself if you do it enough to warrant saying that you agree, and thinking to yourself, I really need to do that more.
That is all it takes to remind ourselves to be more appreciative. Make sure you build prompts into your life to remind you to be more appreciative.
A few years ago, I had a favourite regular walk in which I would see a gravestone with a quote from Proverbs 27:1, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." I took the route deliberately to pass this gravestone, which reminded me that life is short and not to take it for granted.
I would stop for a few minutes on the bench nearby and reflect on the proverb and its meaning. My thoughts often wandered in such a way as to lead me to develop more appreciative feelings. I thought about my relationships with others, prompting me to feel more compassionate and loving toward them and realising how forgetful I may have become. It allowed me to embrace a different view of what was happening in my life, and things that seemed so important just minutes before were put into perspective.
Build ways to nudge yourself each day toward appreciation into your routine. It might even just be a Post-It note on the fridge.
Find a way that works for you to remind yourself regularly not to get caught up in the day-to-day irritating but ultimately trivial things. Stay appreciative of the good and truly important things in your life. It will be worth the effort. And it might even help you sleep better.
This is an adapted excerpt from Think Like a Therapist: Six Life-Changing Insights for Leading a Good Life.
Facebook image: Ekateryna Zubal/Shutterstock
Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(1), 43–48.
Joseph, S. (2022). Think Like a Therapist. Six Life-Changing Insights for Leading a Good Life. Piatkus/Little, Brown. London.