Practice the simple art of appreciation
How is appreciation configured in our well-being?
There is a distinct ring of upward trajectory in the word “appreciate”. It comes from the late Latin adprenentium, which means “to assess the price”. It is a commercial term.
When we set something at a price, when we assess a personal value and give it a monetary equivalent, we are declaring something. Something deeply personal and very much attached to our feeling of satisfaction.
Interestingly, the use of the word “appreciate” has more than doubled over the past 200 years. My uneducated guess would index its use with the rise of industrialism and technology. More people, more things to sell. Things are gaining value.
Do you still have people? Do we like people more now than 200 years ago? Even looking at the drop in the number of homicides per capita over the past 200 years, the answer is probably yes. Not that that alone would prove it.
What is the benefit of appreciation? I think the answer is dividends. The ramifications of profit resulting from profit from something else. Are there any additional benefits when we like someone or something? Are there benefits to being liked by others?
It’s my way of establishing a platform to discuss something that I have personally noticed to be true. I have a natural tendency to like others. I don’t know where this came from other than to thank my parents for raising me in an environment of appreciation. So far, I don’t think I’ve fully appreciated this.
Appreciation is different from gratitude. It’s different. He feels more on the link. It feels more essential, a balm that we seem to need as much as food or water.
I can tell you about several instances in my life where I was appreciated for something that had such an impact on me that I can remember those times to this day. They’re no less effective at reminding me of who I am than when they were first spoken.
I vividly remember the feeling of appreciation I received for a pretty ridiculous portrayal of the character Pee Wee Herman at a football rally on Thanksgiving Day in high school. I didn’t get much appreciation back then from my classmates. But even from those I would call my greatest enemies, I could tell their compliments were heartfelt. While I couldn’t understand why it would be that I, who was constantly bullied for my sweet masculinity, should now be commended for acting in public.
It wasn’t the attention I wanted, however. I have plenty of them. It was the appreciation I needed the most.
So let’s recognize that this is part of our emotional food pyramid that many of us overlook. It falls under the category of gratitude but, clearly, is more specific, more nuanced than gratitude. Appreciation is an art form.
The business world knows this very well. And not just because of the monetary and transactional nature of the word “enjoy”, but because they spend real money learning how to improve productivity in the workplace. The irony is that all of these studies show us that keeping your workers happy, safe, and valued, both financially and verbally, ensures high productivity. Essentially, studies prove that you have to be nice to get more from people. The company’s argument against the bottom line is that being nice costs too much.
Amazingly, for me anyway, I’ve learned that while receiving appreciation is important, it’s nowhere near as effective as showing it. Not just for the sake of those we value, but even more for ourselves. Psychologically and even physiologically, appreciation acts as a generator within systems. Appreciation breeds enthusiasm, belonging and a sense of belonging.
So what could we do with this awareness? I started this essay with a reflection on what happens to us emotionally when someone clicks “like” on something we have said or shown on social media. This “like” is a sign of appreciation. This is where the dopamine rush comes from. This is what some of us are addicted to.
A well-meaning but impossible to follow maxim that I was taught growing up was: “Don’t care what other people think.” Not only is that easier said than done, but I haven’t yet been convinced of a single case where people haven’t cared at least a little bit about what other people think, despite their feelings. protests against that. Many people reading this will see themselves as an exception, but I have deep faith in this idea. I think we are programmed to care about what other people think.
One aspect of our communal nature rests squarely on ritual appreciation. We demand it. Biologically, appreciation is the process of checking out good ideas and strong genes. Spiritually and emotionally, appreciation is the uplifting of our spirit. It is the further entanglement of our unity. He welds the links between us. We might consider doing this on purpose as an important aspect of our regular spiritual practice.
But what does the spiritual practice of appreciation look like? How do we practice appreciation? The simple answer is to do it. But of course, that’s not an answer at all. Because practicing appreciation is really the practice of conscious appreciation. Deliberate and intentional use of the act of appreciation for mutual benefit. Something to ponder and try in real life. So are the concepts of forgiveness or compassion.
The best part is that there are countless opportunities to show appreciation, which most of us never even think about. How often do we want to file a complaint? Start by giving someone a compliment for every complaint you make about someone or something else. One for one. Prepare yourselves. If you get it right, I guarantee it will be a real eye opener.
This is another opportunity to reflect on what comes out of our mouths. Be attentive to what we say and be “impeccable with your word”, as Don Miguel Ruiz says in his book “The Four Agreements”. There is much to ponder on this thought alone in regards to appreciation as a useful activity.
I am grateful that I tend to be a grateful person. It makes my life considerably better, I can tell you that for a fact. I love my co-workers, especially those who call me to work. I admire my community for the way they work hard to reinvent themselves for a new era. I deeply appreciate my family beyond the capacity of words.
I express these feelings every day. I compliment good waiters in restaurants. I tip the gas station attendant at the Montouri’s for washing my windshield during gasoline. I sympathize with those who have difficulty, because that too is a form of appreciation. My favorite thing is to surprise people with an unexpected compliment (provided it doesn’t sound scary).
I appreciate that you have read this. I appreciate the emails I receive and the occasions when I am politely stopped in Market Basket to discuss something I recently wrote. These are among the blessings of my life, and I treasure them. In full consciousness.
Wil Darcangelo, M.Div., Is Minister of First Parish UU Church of Fitchburg and First Church of Christ Unitarian in Lancaster, and Producer of The UU Virtual Church of Fitchburg and Lancaster on YouTube. Send an email to [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @wildarcangelo. His blog, Hopeful Thinking, can be found at www.hopefulthinkingworld.blogspot.com.