Written by: Jenny Smith
“Being grateful for what you have” used to be a term delivered in a scolding tone mostly to young people who dared to wish for more. Over the last ten years, something radical has happened to the power of appreciation; it’s become a buzz word and offers an alternative approach to life, a simple way of turning lack around into abundance.
Making others feel good
Many writers, psychology and spiritual teachers point to appreciation and gratitude as a fundamental practice to increasing happiness. Research has shown that if people feel that they have something to be grateful for they are more likely to do good turns for others, and unlike the costly and often out of reach dream of having the latest labels, adages such as ‘rather than having what you want, want what you have‚Äô illustrate that by simply changing your view you can change how you feel.
Reminding children what they have
In the face of consumerism and capitalism, appreciation is a counter cultural act. Children are constantly bombarded with messages of not being enough, either in the way they look, what they wear the phone they have, the grades they get and the lifestyles that they live. Advertising works on the principal of keeping them wanting more, at all times, even within five minutes of purchasing the latest something. From the perspective of the media there is always another thing to need before we can relax and feel secure.
If appreciation for what we have either materially or in the form of our relationships in our families becomes our focus then we take the powerful position of creating our own feelings of satisfaction and having enough.
Setting appreciations for family members
Bringing appreciation consciously into family life can be a fun and very beneficial project. You can start off simply by committing to give every family member at least three appreciations a week. A step up could be by starting a family meal by sharing appreciations for each other. Children love positive attention and thrive under it even in the times when part of them squirms with any attention. If you make this practice into a game that will help to lessen any awkwardness and self-consciousness.
Sometimes people do want to express gratitude but for one reason or another feel a little unable to do so directly. One way around this is to have a box somewhere in the house with a pad and pen by it for anyone to write an appreciation to someone else anonymously. These can then be taken out and shared either individually and privately or as a group every so often. Similarly you can have a blackboard in the kitchen where everyone can chalk up what they appreciate, or for the more linguistic of you, you can buy an appreciations fridge magnet word set!
Recognise peoples worth
Putting some of these into place creates a warm atmosphere that lowers hostility and supports people to feel open and relaxed in themselves. Most of us, children and adults, have some level of ‘not good enough’ complex because of the media messages and other pressures in our daily lives, so to purposely foster an environment that celebrates and recognises the worth of each person for who they are and what they contribute is to offer a great salve to the soreness everyone at times can feel.
Appreciation is also a powerful part of difficult discussions. When you need to raise a tricky subject with one of your children, you can use gratitude as a way in and a way to close the discussion. Nobody likes being told off and child development specialists have shown how positive reinforcement is a much more effective approach to challenging behaviour. Lastly and certainly not least, a practice of self-gratitude is invaluable for boosting self-esteem and shifting towards a glass half full perspective.
A simple act of writing or naming five things that you appreciate about yourself before you go to sleep each night is a great way to end the day, sets you up for a deep and relaxing sleep and over time will train your mind to see the positive in your daily life.