Can you think of a time when you have felt appreciated?
Perhaps a colleague appreciated your presence in a meeting or a friend expressed how they appreciate you being there when they need you.
What do you notice about the impact of that appreciation?
For me, I can almost feel it in my feet – being appreciated puts a spring in my step, I smile more, I feel lighter and more alert, I feel happier, clearer and more energised.
Studies show that appreciation can have a positive effect on our wellbeing. It can help us manage stress, boost our self-esteem and even improve our work performance. When we experience appreciation, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin are released into our brains, making us calmer and more relaxed, improving the quality of our thinking.
According to Mark McMordie in his book, Mindfulness for Coaches, appreciation also helps us feel more psychologically safe and enables us to ‘show up’ in all aspects of our life without fear of negative consequences for ourselves, our career or our status. And the impact stretches beyond the personal. When there is psychological safety In the workplace, people are more willing to share ideas, therefore bringing creativity and innovation and enhancing team performance.
So what is appreciation?
According to the dictionary, to appreciate is to ‘value or admire highly’ or ‘recognise with gratitude’.
Nancy Kline, author of Time to Think and The Promise that Changes Everything: I won’t interrupt you tells us that ‘we think better in the presence of appreciation’ and she includes appreciation as one of the 10 components of her ‘Thinking Environment’. The magic ratio she says between appreciation and challenge is 5:1.
And yet despite all this evidence, offering or receiving appreciation can feel uncomfortable or difficult, especially when we’ve learned to focus on our own deficits or ‘development areas’ or when the prevailing culture sees appreciation as a sign of naivety or even weakness.
So I’d like to offer you 4 simple ways to bring more appreciation into your life! Let me know how you get on with them and what difference they make.
4 ways to develop appreciation
1. At the end of each conversation you have today, tell the person you’re speaking with what qualities you have appreciated in them during your time together. You may find they share their appreciation of you too.
2. Help build a culture of appreciation by accepting graciously the appreciation others show to you. When someone appreciates you, don’t shrug it off as them ‘just being nice’. Instead, look them in the eye and say ‘thank you’, as if they were accepting a thoughtful gift.
3. Take a few minutes each day to sit or stand in stillness, noticing what you appreciate about your environment. You can do this indoors or outdoors, alone or with others. Remember to breath into the experience and smile!
4. Tune-in to feedback from others and make a note of the appreciation you receive this week. Revisit your list regularly, exploring how those qualities show up in your relationships and your decisions.
In the latest episode of The Outdoor Coach, we explore together the power of appreciation and the positive effects appreciation can have on our thinking, our wellbeing and our feelings of psychological safety and productivity.