When I hear the word appreciation my thoughts quickly go to people, situations and events that stir happy and satisfying emotions within me. I think of my dear kind grandmother who nurtured me through my years as a child and young adult; I think of my lovely garden in the country and I reflect on how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful location. As I purposefully guide my thoughts in this appreciative manner I notice how my emotions, thoughts and behaviors, in the present moment are affected in a powerfully positive and agreeable way. All aspects of my humanity have been impacted. In this way, it is evident that when we reflect on things we value, our appreciation actively becomes a very powerful resource that affects our internal and subsequently, our external world in a very pleasing way.
None the less, it is remarkably easy to appreciate the things in life that bring us pleasure when we are feeling content. It becomes much more challenging to appreciate even the pleasant aspects of our lives when we experience pain, suffering and unwelcome turmoil. In these times the feeling of contentment often leaves us. Yet, it still is possible to experience the benefits of appreciation in the difficult times. Appreciating the pain, the suffering and the unwelcomed turmoil has a very powerful effect. This is not to say that people are to join the medieval self-flagellation practices of pious monks who flogged themselves in an attempt to produce purity in their thoughts and behavior. Of course, no one welcomes unhappy circumstances. Yet, when these situations occur, (because they do occur to every person at some time during life) we can appreciate that pain is protecting us by giving us the signal that something very important needs our attention. The intense emotional pain of losing a loved one is connected to our deep capacity to love. Without the pain of loss there would be no love. Without the pain that comes from a broken bone, we would not take the necessary steps to nurture the broken bone so that the restorative powers of the body heal the fracture. Even the painful and uncomfortable responses we experience have a purpose. When we pay attention and acknowledge their purpose instead of avoiding the unpleasant feelings, they become a part of the healing process. The appreciation brings about an internal shift and the suffering lessens. This allows us to gain greater resilience and tolerance to experience these intense emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them.
In summary, appreciation is a powerful tool that has an enormous impact upon our internal (intra-psychic) world no matter what the circumstance.