What you appreciate, appreciates.

The word Appreciation is a fascinating little word because it has four distinct meanings that all happen to relate to and support one another.

To appreciate can mean:

To be fully conscious of

To hold in high regard

To be grateful for

To increase 

In order for what you appreciate, to appreciate you have to (1) open your eyes and become aware of it; (2) hold it in high regard; and (3) be deeply grateful for the joy it brings you.   When you do that, it appreciates.  When you don’t, it depreciates.

When you appreciate relationships, they grow deeper.
When you don’t, they grow weaker.

When you appreciate someone’s talent and contributions, they flourish.
When you don’t, they languish.

When you appreciate the love in your life, it grows.
When you don’t, it fades.

I think we all know this to be true and yet we often have difficulty remaining conscious of all that we have to be grateful for.  It’s often only in times of crisis or when something we love is about to leave us that we truly take note of how precious it is to us.

A beautiful take on this comes from Helen Keller’s essay entitled “Three Days to See,” which she was inspired to write after asking a friend about what she saw during a walk in the woods and her friend replied, “nothing of note.”

I wondered how it was possible to walk for an hour through the woods and see nothing of note. I who cannot see find hundreds of things:  the delicate symmetry of a leaf, the smooth skin of a silver birch, the rough, shaggy bark of a pine… use your eyes as if tomorrow you will have been stricken blind. 

So how do we open our eyes and ensure we take note of all that we have to be grateful for?   Here are four simple practices that you can do to celebrate and grow the things that you’re grateful for in life.

1.  Write down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

Be specific:   generic references to “family” or “work” don’t have as much power as a short, detailed description of what specifically you appreciate.
Make it heartfelt:  don’t just write it, feel it.  Take a moment to hold the person or the experience in your heart and feel the goodness of it.
Make it a ritual:    like brushing your teeth, it should be something you integrate into a daily ritual.

2.   Create a Photo Collection of things you appreciate.

Several years ago, Roy Spence got fed up with all the negativity in the world.   So naturally, he decided to walk across America and photograph something positive—something good, beautiful, extraordinary—every mile of his journey.  The result was a beautiful collection of people, places, animals, objects, vistas, you name it, that serve as a reminder of the beauty all around us if you choose to look for it.     You don’t have to walk across America to do this exercise.  Just keep your eyes open and snap a picture of something or someone that brings you joy and file it away in a Gratitude album that you can refer to when you need a boost of happiness.

3.    Write a Gratitude Letter to someone you deeply appreciate.

Think about someone who means the world to you and write them a letter expressing your heartfelt appreciation for what they’ve meant to you.  Be as specific as you can about what they’ve done that you appreciate.   If possible, deliver it in person.  Consider doing this on a monthly basis.

4.   Practice Appreciations in the workplace.

John Mackey and Walter Robb, co-CEOs of Whole Foods Market, have cultivated a culture of appreciation at Whole Foods. They have a practice of closing every significant meeting with a round of Appreciations wherein people take turns sharing one thing they appreciate about someone else in the room.   It’s easy to imagine how this simple act increases the level of motivation and pride in the individual and camaraderie and goodwill among Team Members.

By taking the time to appreciate the goodness in your life, you’re destined to create more of it.