Last week our nation celebrated Thanksgiving, a holiday we use to “give thanks” for what we have in our lives. We typically use this holiday as a time to gather and celebrate with family and friends, sometimes taking a few moments to acknowledge those things that are most important to us. But how we can take this spirit of giving thanks and incorporate it more fully in an ongoing way? It is easy to lose track of with the stress and craziness of our ongoing lives. Yet, in my experience, one of the most powerful motivators of good and instigators of change is an ongoing ability to be thankful or express appreciation:
- for others
- for ourselves
- for our situation
- for our relationships
- for our life
This may sound like an overly optimistic prospect, especially if you are feeling depressed, anxious, lonely or, like so many of us, have experienced repeated hurt and pain in your life. How can we appreciate THAT????
It is admittedly difficult. When my own children are driving me crazy because they are misbehaving or I am in conflict with my wife it is hard for me to feel appreciative of my situation. In fact, I usually tend to feel sorry for myself! Instead of feeling appreciative, I’m usually thinking something along the lines of, “why can’t everyone else be nicer or act better so that there aren’t so many problems for me?” What I have learned, however, is that if I am able to look past my own hurt feelings for a minute and try to APPRECIATE the good qualities of my family members and APPRECIATE what they are actually trying to accomplish in these situations my perspective changes. First, I always discover that they are never trying to cause a problem for me despite what it may have felt like earlier. Second, I tend to feel the love I have for my family instead of the earlier negativity. Third, my family tends to respond positively in return, leading my hurt to melt away.
I am not trying to suggest that you need to be thankful or appreciative of people hurting you or of genuinely bad situations that we all find ourselves in. Appreciating yourself and others should not be thought of like a “happy pill,” because of course we all go through sad, scary, and hurtful experiences that need to be worked through. However, finding appreciation can prevent you from piling on additional negativity that does not need to be there because it can remind you of strengths in yourself, in others, and in your relationships.
Consistently showing appreciation for yourself and others takes practice. You have to pick something to focus on and make a point of finding and communicating what you appreciate.
So what are YOU going to focus on?
In my next post I will cover in more depth exactly HOW to show appreciation, because obviously this is something that is easier said than done.
If you have further questions about the concept of appreciation or need help in learning how to better implementing the tool of appreciating yourself or others, contact us or schedule an appointment using our online scheduling tool.