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Why My Therapist Says I Should Keep A Gratitude Journal

Updated: Jan 28, 2023

Steps to Self - Appreciation

As the practice’s theme this month is appreciation,

I wanted to take this opportunity to dive a bit deeper into the concept of appreciation, as well as how it intersects with gratitude. Appreciation involves the awareness, recognition, enjoyment, and full sensitive understanding of the positive value of something or someone. This definition shows how important mindfulness is when practicing appreciation, because in order to have a full sensitive understanding of why you appreciate the value of something, you have to be mindfully engaged with the positive aspects of that thing. Appreciation doesn’t come naturally and is something that needs to be practiced.

When beginning to develop a conscious relationship with appreciation, a great place to

start is self-appreciation. If you find that it can be difficult to cultivate appreciation for others, part of that may be due to the need for cultivating self-appreciation. So often appreciation and gratitude are talked about in the context of feeling positive in regard to someone else, or something someone does for you, but those same principles can be applied to yourself. An exercise that can help begin the path of self-appreciation is when you find yourself with a moment to think at the end of the day, ask yourself, “What can I feel proud of today?”. After some reflection and once you’ve found that thing you can be proud of, relish in all of the reasons, big and small, why you are proud of that. This thing at the end of the day doesn’t have to be some grandiose achievement, it can be something like getting out of bed on time for example. So, say getting up on time was your thing to be proud of, think of every possible reason why. It helped you get to work on time, gave you the opportunity to make a good breakfast, helped you maintain a schedule, mitigated the potential stress of getting ready in the morning, all of these are reasons to be appreciative towards yourself and one action you took to help yourself that day.

Just like self-appreciation, appreciation of others can be practiced in a very similar way.

Allow yourself sometime to think of an event that day involving someone else like, a family member helping with the cooking that day, a friend buying you coffee, or even the bus arriving on time. These are all great calls to cultivate a sense of appreciation. Just like with self-appreciation grant yourself the space the consider all the positive aspects of that action or person and why you feel appreciative towards. Focus on the feelings, both physical and mental, that moment that brought you and then let those feelings guide your future actions so that you may then help yourself act in a way which cultivates a feeling of appreciation within others. Appreciation of others can also be practiced by making it a priority to acknowledge when you feel appreciative of someone in the moment. It is important to remember that this action is a parallel to the personal appreciation exercises in that, highlighting specifics of why you are feeling that appreciation will help foster a deeper and more meaningful relationship with that


Although gratitude and appreciation are often used synonymously, there are differences between the two terms. One of the most defining characteristics of appreciation is that it is a mindful action, like taking a moment to focus upon and reexperience a moment from your day or verbalizing the reasons for your appreciation to someone as we discussed earlier. These actions are based on an internal feeling we have, that feeling is gratitude. Additionally, appreciation is an activity that is sensory based. As referenced earlier when talking about appreciation exercises, it is a mindful action that focuses on the physical and emotional feelings that took place during a specific moment. Increased awareness and understanding of these sensory aspects of appreciation are what then fuels gratitude, as gratitude is a cognitive exercise of perception. The more in tune you are with your awareness of certain sensory intakes will then catalyze your ability to lean into the emotional perception of gratitude.

By regularly practicing appreciation you are allowing yourself to become more connected with your personal sense of gratitude. This in turn, allows for you to better understand yourself through the appreciative actions you take and the values those actions attend to. Improved understanding of mindful appreciation will also benefit your ability to exist in the present moment. When you practice maintaining awareness of what you appreciate in your life you are also building a framework for your brain to stay in the moment and increasing your distress tolerance skills. Practicing appreciation and developing your understanding of gratitude not only yields that benefits of positive feelings and increased optimism within yourself and others, but also has several proven impacts on your brain health as well. Additional benefits related to practicing appreciation includes reduced stress levels, increased life satisfaction, decreased materialism, lowers the chance of experiencing burnout, improved sleep, lowers levels of cellular inflammation, improves resiliency, increased prosocial behaviors, strengthens relationships, and encourages the development of patience, humility, and wisdom. Ultimately, continuing to develop a conscious connection with appreciation will build a bridge of recognition towards gratitude.

- Eli Mick, Supervisee of Social Work at RVA Counseling in Richmond, VA

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