“Play the appreciation game” – I was suggested once. I thought about many things I am grateful for in that moment. However, at the time I didn’t understand how fundamental this “game” is in our lives. It is very well to say that you are lucky to be who you are, to have amazing relationships and delightful children… However, we usually say it as a fact – provide ourselves or others with a statement knowing that on this planet there are thousands of people living far worse than us. Realisation that other people are worse off than us is not gratitude. The magic happens when we start feeling appreciation for the positive aspects of our lives, when we charge our words of gratitude with a true emotion.
According to the research conducted by Berkeley University, gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions. We cannot feel appreciative and fearful, angry, resentful or lacking at the same time. When we shift our focus from what is wrong in our lives to what we can appreciate, the way we feel changes instantaneously. Furthermore, the studies have shown that long-term playing the appreciation game increases our determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy levels.
The long-term benefits of the “game” might take time to kick in but don’t let it discourage you. It is like building a muscle. We exercise several times a week in order to get fit. Of course, we feel great after each work-out, but more obvious results are visible in time.
When you feel frustrated, angry, jealous, lacking, can you make good decisions, can you come up with creative ideas? How would your relationship change if you traded your expectations for appreciation? Gratitude is a short-cut to feeling good, it is an antidote for any negative emotion. Whilst in the beginning feeling appreciative rather than resentful might be an effort, with practice it becomes natural.
Many studies have shown that gratitude makes us happier, more content, more efficient in our lives. It doesn’t mean that we stop striving to improve our living conditions, that we bury our career goals or stay in an unfulfilling relationship. Instead, we are reaching towards our dreams from a place of happiness and contentment – we make better decisions, we enjoy the ride, we have insights that guide us, we experience coincidences that help us get to where we want to go much quicker.
Rules of the game:
- It has to be done in writing.
- You have to write a minimum of 1 page (A4 – no cheating!) per day.
- It is best to do it in the morning after your exercise or / and meditation routine. This way it will set tone for the rest of your day.
- Pay special attention to things you feel resentful about – try to see something about them to appreciate, i.e. if you really don’t like your tiny flat, remember all the beautiful, cosy, romantic moments you had in it; if your relationship is far from great, think about the qualities in your partner that you admire. Appreciation is an antidote to all the negative feelings.
- Tiniest things count – a smile from a stranger, orchid that blossomed in the living room, child’s hug, etc.
- Charge your words with emotion. Really feel the gratitude. Don’t just rush to complete the page – do it properly.
- If you are struggling, just ask yourself “If I really wanted to be grateful, what would be those things I could potentially be grateful for?”. Sometimes it may take some effort to break the negative thinking patterns.