The Art of Appreciation
by rebecca stewart
We’re entering a season where gratitude takes center stage, and while that’s certainly important, today, we’re talking about the art of appreciation. Perhaps you’re thinking, but…are they not kind of the same thing? It’s not surprising that we might think so because they are consistently used interchangeably, and though they might be two sides of the same coin, they are not wholly the same. In an article written for Psychology Today, Steven Stosny, Ph.D., wrote, “Appreciation generates gratitude, but not the other way around. We’re often grateful for help from loved ones without appreciating their efforts and hardships.”¹
The article, fittingly titled, Gratitude Is Good; Appreciation Is Better, focuses on the differences between the two, noting that:
- Gratitude is a wonderful state of mind, but it tends to be short-lived and subject to inhibitions.
- Appreciation is a more rewarding quality to develop in terms of improving self-value and relationships.
- Appreciation is more contagious than gratitude and more likely to prompt reciprocation.
With that in mind, let’s dive into how we can consciously work to add appreciation into every facet of our everyday. Before we do some breakdown, though, we would be remiss not to mention that the main recommendation when trying to master the art of appreciation or even developing an attitude of gratitude, is to embrace the power of journaling. Something that might come more easily to some than others, to which I say, adapt it to a style or method that best fits you. (Check the website in November for different journaling methods.)
If ever there was a more underappreciated bunch than those closest to us… In recent years, I consciously decided to be more vocal in my appreciation for my family, yet I know I still fall short, especially on those not-so-good, very bad days. If you’re in that boat with me, let’s talk.
It’s easy to get stuck on all the things that we are bringing to the table (and feeling underappreciated for), but when we put the same lens on our family members, we’ll see more of what they, too, have on their plate that makes their efforts all the more valuable. Because even if we’re doing what we’re “supposed to” do, it’s still nice to be recognized. It’s one of those, “Oh my gosh, I was feeling so overwhelmed from my day; thank you for taking care of the dishes/garbage/mess…”
In terms of physical acts, it’s really a matter of catching each other doing good for each other, for the home, in general. But it’s also ruminating on - and expressing - what we appreciate in each other as the people we love most in our lives. It’s good to reflect, but expressing our appreciation is better.
The key to growing in the art of appreciation is to get specific. It’s not just saying to your kid, “You’re so smart; way to go!” It’s, “I am so proud of the work you’re putting in; look at how it’s paying off on that [insert accomplishment].” Remember that success looks different for each of us.
To carry on the work that we’re doing at home, let’s shift our focus to our work life. Have you ever worked in a space where it was all too easy to get sucked into a vortex of negativity? Negativity is infectious and can blind us to the good that is happening – it can’t all be bad, right? Creating an environment of appreciation at work is just as important as at home and out in the world.
Before focusing on your co-workers, let’s start by appreciating the job. Even if you’re not “living the dream,” it’s an income, it’s hopefully a space that will provide an opportunity for personal if not professional growth, and maybe it’s the jumping off point to your next big thing (or “the dream”).
Shifting a gear to our co-workers, I don’t know about you, but I tend to offer quick snippets of appreciation: You’re magical! Thank you a million for tackling that! While there isn’t anything wrong with that per se, what are the things you’re tucking into your warm fuzzy folder and remembering; a generalized moment of appreciation (which does still feel great) or specific feedback? “Thank you for not making me feel like an idiot. I was so confused, but the way you walked me through that process really cleared things up for me, and I feel good about doing it on my own moving forward.” Or “Holy cow, I was so stressed about that, but now I feel much calmer. Thank you for talking that through.” On the flip side, perhaps we appreciate that we’ve been in that space and remember what it felt like when someone was calm and patient with us versus short and/or condescending.
in the WORLD
These days, we are more aware of the negativity out in the world than ever. Social media has provided a platform for people to instantly vent their frustrations – most notably on community/customer service pages. What springs most readily to mind are interactions at grocery stores, restaurants or fast-food places, in any service industry, on the road, etc…
So when we’re out in the world (and later behind our keyboard), it's pulling ourselves out of our own bad/frazzled day to see that that worker is totally slammed (or maybe it’s their first week) and could use some grace and patience from the general population. It’s just extending a little grace and appreciation for the situation, period. I know we’re in a hurry, and we are scheduled down to the minute more often than not, but one day, you’ll need to move at a slower pace; you’ll need someone to take a breath and have patience. Give what you want to receive in this world. Just three, almost four years ago, our world got turned upside down; let us appreciate what we have – not least of which is shelves full of toilet paper.
And then there was one. As we’re cultivating appreciation in our lives, let us take the time to appreciate the little things. That perfect first drink in the morning, a beautiful sunset, a perfect bite, a hug at just the right moment. Celebrate your own achievements and the things that make you marvelously, wonderfully you, and take the time to look within your life for the things you appreciate most.
Yes, life may come with big, memorable moments and the occasional grand, sweeping gesture, but the little things in the in-between make a life whole. It’s having the presence to be present enough in the moment to acknowledge and express our appreciation. Having an attitude of gratitude is grand, but let’s also develop the art of appreciation.
¹Psychology Today. (2022, December). Gratitude Is Good, Appreciation Is Better. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anger-in-the-age-of-entitlement/202212/gratitude-is-good-appreciation-is-better
A Love Letter to Teachers: Teacher Appreciation All Year Long
Dear Teachers: This is us wishing you a school year filled with growth, grace, and learning. May your students be sparkling sponges of learning readiness, your administrators offer the support you need, and your students’ parents be the perfect partner in this year’s educational adventures.