The Power of Appreciation

What are you appreciative of? When you think about the new day, the new work ahead, the places you’re visiting, the people you see, what do you find appreciation in?

I’ve been fascinated by the power of Gratitude this year. Cultivating Gratitude has the ability to truly make life more enjoyable no matter what is happening. I’ve had moments where I’ve been challenged and had to put these ideas into practice. For instance this year I almost wrecked my car by running into the person in front of me who abruptly stopped, having to slightly swerve, and whereas previously I may have held on to the emotion of anger or resentment at this person who I’ll never speak to, I came back to Gratitude within seconds. Just reminding myself of the present: Sure, I did almost have a terrible accident, but I didn’t and I’m grateful for being healthy in this moment and perfectly okay and so there’s no reason to over think the situation and dwell in it. Within seconds I took 5 deep breaths and I felt not only calm and relaxed, but full of life that I couldn’t help but at first smile, and then let out a laugh at how silly it seemed and yet so simple. It’s actually a fun state of mind to reflect back at what had just happened and learn from it. I should have not been rushing for instance, I would never had been as close as I was, so the car in front wouldn’t have seemed to abruptly stop then. When you can reflect back from this place of mindfulness, it seems so clear and you’re less controlled by those impulse emotions. You can guide yourself by your more rationale and true self. The self you have after you get angry, give it some time, have had the opportunity to naturally breath more and bring your blood pressure down, and then think clearly again. We all know of this, and we all experience it, but few of us see value in returning to that place quicker for the sake of our own health. Some of us don’t realize it, but when we dwell in that anger for minutes, sometimes even hours, we’re needlessly hurting our bodies with higher blood pressure and negative emotions. That person may not have even realized he caused this either, and wouldn’t even be giving it a thought, so the only person we’re affecting would be ourselves by dwelling.

I’ve found the idea of Appreciation recently to be very interesting because it ties into Gratitude. It’s easy for us to criticize or find faults in things, events or people we interact with throughout the day, but we rarely see the beauty and are appreciative of it. Some people call this ‘looking at the glass half full as opposed to half empty’, but it goes farther than that. It’s seeing the glass half full, but noticing the glass is neatly designed, just the right size for that moment, and chilled to just the right temperature. These all provide to the experience but we are quick to criticize the amount of liquid first than to be appreciate of everything else that’s already present.

This is a most useful practice when done with people you interact with and your own friends and family. Be more appreciative of the little things; the time and energy someone may have put into an email, that warm sentiment from receiving a handwritten note in a postcard, a greeting at the beginning of the day.

We have this similar idea behind the reasons we give gifts to each other–we want the receiver to feel appreciated. But the gifts can be non material as well. We can simply tell people what we’re inspired by or what we feel is a strength in the person we’re interacting with and this feedback can create positive energy in those we touch.

I met a Frenchman, Philippe, in Leh a couple weeks ago. He was near a monastery we had just visited and on our way back to the city and he ran up asking if he could have a ride. We had an extra spot, so we obliged and heard some interesting stories of his travels throughout India over the past few years with his 5 weeks of vacation he gets from his job in Paris. He loved India and had visited most regions and highlighted tourist areas. He had a very warm personality and he shared with us his favorite places he had seen over the past few weeks in the Ladakh region.

After we arrived in Leh, one thing I was so appreciative of and I wanted to make sure Philippe knew was his warm, bright, and inviting smile. It was wide and open and you just felt happier around him and I made sure to capture this:

It’s what you’re appreciative of that you will continue to remember– I’ll remember Philippe more for his smile and his presence he created with it than how he got in our taxi, the ride to Leh or his adventurous travel stories. That’s because we remember what we’re appreciative of more than certain events, moments, actions or plans.

By sharing what inspires us, it helps others find what inspires them. Be more appreciative of the little things and notice the changes inside yourself.

  • Lisa Ryan

    Thanks for a nice article and great reminder that we are in charge of our emotions. I related to your car crash story – I was in way too much of a hurry and had a tire blowout at about 70 miles an hour. It was scary, and I was quite shaken, however, I was grateful that I was able to control and stop my car, I had AAA insurance so help was quickly on the way, and I was also grateful to the policeman that sat behind me until the tire was changed and I was on my way. I slowed down, got to my meeting late but safely, and I was thankful for the reminder that I don’t need to always be in such a hurry.