How to develop appreciation, plus A gratitude meditation.

How to develop appreciation, plus A gratitude meditation.

Gratitude is a clearly fitting sentiment for the holidays,  yet appreciation and gratitude can be developed into a way of life. 

Where our focus goes energy flows. 

When I was a psychology student at UW-Madison, I assisted a professor in their research on the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy.  This means that a person’s prediction causes itself to become true.  In a nutshell, our expectations and beliefs about ourselves, a situation, or someone else projects outwards, and either with our own behaviors or filtered perception, we confirm the expectation.  Our brain is an amazing processing machine that constantly searches for opportunities and examples that we can easily recognize and align with our beliefs. So the question is, what is the quality of your your beliefs?

How does this phenomenon relate to us and how we can invite more gratitude and positivity into our lives?  Because we have the power to manifest and influence the amount of joy and goodness through an open awareness of our inner experience.  

“Until you make the unconscious, conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”  Carl Jung 

Even in the most difficult circumstances, the perspectives of individuals can vary considerably.  Some see hope, while others are drowning in a catastrophizing of “what-ifs.”  This is not to minimize or bypass how important it is to face the challenging moments life hands us, but if there is a more day-to-day pattern to focus on what is generally wrong, then there may be an imbalance towards a negativity bias. 

You can direct your attention more wisely to enhance your personal power. 

This past week, I was an opening guest for lululemon’s weekly team meeting to kick off the holiday season.   We discussed the idea of strengthening our brain’s capacity to look for the good, to experience appreciation more often…to train ourselves for optimism.  

This is where mindfulness steps in.  Mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and beliefs so that we can actively choose responses that will be beneficial to our overall health and happiness.  It is not about eliminating feelings or judgments, instead, it is a thoughtful understanding of them so that we can shape and refine the energy that ripples out to the world.   

The training of presence through mindfulness is to appreciate the good that is happening in our lives without passing over them. By training to intentionally seek out things to appreciate we can override the tendency to focus on the struggles and problems. Negativity can be quite sticky if we allow it!

For example, you may be feeling cranky about the holidays and therefore your focus will then be on all of the things that are horrible about it. Like, “we might as not even have Thanksgiving because it won’t be the same without so and so.” On the other hand, you still find Christmas magical and notice the lights and sounds of the season everywhere you go. The list can go on and on, yet the examples can be placed in a good or bad column based on your perceptions.

A very simple way to begin the process of retraining your brain for gratitude is to create an intention to purposely find and name 3 things that you appreciate daily.  This is a daily practice to change what your brain grabs onto and chooses to confirm an expectation we have intentionally placed within our consciousness.

Meditation is a fantastic way to set the stage for this particular kind of intention on appreciation. I’ve created a short meditation for you,

Listen here: A mindfulness meditation for gratitude.

Here are some addition ways to enhance your well-being through appreciation practices from Deepak Chophra, MD:

  • Be of service to another person. Give them your time, sympathy, and attention. Make them feel listened to and cared for.
  • Immerse yourself in nature and its healing influence, even if it means only a brief walk outside. As you walk, don’t occupy yourself texting or talking. Let your attention be quietly captured by trees, grass, the sun, and the sky—whatever allows you to commune with nature.
  • Do something that comforts you. Do something that comforts someone else.
  • Find a source of inspiration. Whether it is art, music, or poetry, make it be something that touches you deeply.
  • Do something that you enjoy and makes you laugh.
  • Extend your appreciation to someone else.
  • Act out of love.

It really is up to us to generate the energy we wish to radiate to others and in turn this will attract the good that is within every moment.

Enjoy your holidays, sending you appreciation and joy!