APPRECIATION Makes Everyone Happy

The title of this post may be corny, but it is absolutely true.  Today’s Peace Practice is APPRECIATION.

As I think about it, for the purposes of this blog, I am am inclined to call them Happiness Practicesmothers-day-flowers_EssenceMagazine_SNVT_Appreciation.jpgbecause they make you and other people feel happier.  What can be better than that?

We see here two people each joyously appreciating the other and I used it to show the way both people’s faces light up…both the giver and the receiver feel happy and loved.  We all need to feel appreciated.

To appreciate is to increase in value – We live in a judgmental and fear-based culture full of sarcasm, cynicism, putdowns, gossip, name-calling,raging and other ways that people DE-value or depreciate themselves and one another – even people they love.  We all tend to look for something to criticize instead of something to praise and celebrate. But, hey, celebrations are fun!  More parties please.

I think it’s a self-protective mechanism.   Our lizard brain (fight or flight) is constantly hyper-focused on scoping out “danger.” Of course the real danger is being hyper-focused on the wrong thing (danger and fear) and keeping everyone at a “safe distance,” forgoing the trust and intimacy (into-me-see) we need to be happy.  All this negative noise takes a toll on our happiness, our self-esteem and our physical wellbeing as well as on our important relationships at home, at work and in the community. It has the effect of keeping us in a somewhat defensive posture – which prevents living from an open heart.  Which is where we feel happy and at peace.

Appreciation is disarming, reduces distance and increases trust.  It sets the stage for non-hostile discourse, even during a conflict.  It opens the heart of both people and frees them to be productive and creative.

I can even prove the benefits of appreciation.

I was privileged to PAX-Tootle-board-IMG_1408work for Dr. Dennis Embry, founder first of Peacebuilders, a whole-school violence prevention program, and then now of Paxis Institute  (PEACE is) which took the concepts much further. His life work is to help children to learn skills that will help them to grow into happy, healthy, productive adults.

The #1 simple intervention in both PeaceBuilders and the PAX Good Behavior Game is the “PRAISE NOTE.” Children are encouraged to actively look for reasons to write Praise Notes or PAX Tootles  (positive tattles) about something good they noticed another child or their teacher do or achieve – and to post the note on a Praise Board for all to see.  It’s pure magic to see the transformation in the classroom, to see the new smiles and feelings of pride and safety – and the creativity and achievemenPAXeffectsChartLargets – of the now-confidant children.  And as you can see from the chart below, this, along with some other very  simple tools, has a long-term positive effect.  Peer-reviewed science out of Johns Hopkins University.  The PAX tools work at home too.  Instant positive parenting and spousal relationship help.

Everybody wishes other people would think well of them and appreciate the great things they do or achieve…and beyond that, that they would tell them what they appreciate.

What do you think would happen if you actively LOOKED FOR things to appreciate in your family, your friends, your fellow bloggers and especially in people who push your anger buttons? And told them?

I am not suggesting you take down a needed boundary to let an abuser close to you or give her flowers.  But our strongest boundaries can be, and eventually must be, calm and strong, not vindictive.  And if you have good reason to keep a person at bay, you can at least do the internal work of learning to appreciate things about them.  Why?  Because you will be less stressed, stronger and more balanced and happier for doing so.

Appreciation of self and others warms and opens our hearts, both when we think about the other person and when we see them in person. It is a vital peace and happiness practice and it has a long term positive effect on peace on our planet.   Try it for yourself, you may like it.

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