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The Power of Appreciations

I’m going to make a radical statement in order to communicate how transformative appreciation practice has been after engaging in it via the Turning the Wheel work for the last 10 years (and I invite you to see if you can keep an open mind, even if you notice cynicism emerge).

If every human was to practice appreciation with themselves and those with which they have relationships, we would have a radically different world today. Appreciation practice would make a resonant impact on complex issues like divorce, road rage, the state of the education system, depression, suicide, abuse and more, by cultivating connection, generosity, collaboration, a fresh perspective, resilience and love.

Think this is just wishful thinking, spiritual override and blind optimism? Consider this: neuroscience teaches us that we have a negativity bias in our brain. This is an evolutionary trait where the brain will naturally orient more around the negative than the positive in order to keep us safe. Our ancestors needed to be on high alert just to survive, so it is no wonder that our brains orient toward negativity as early as the end of the first year of life. This is why no matter how much praise we receive, one negative or constructive critical comment is what we remember and dwell on. This is also why once we start to focus on our partner’s faults, it is difficult to see anything else. The electrical activity in our brains is much higher and therefore creates a deeper footprint when we are viewing a negative image than a positive one. Our brains are hardwired to register, remember and respond to negativity rather than what is going well.

Appreciation practice, or being consciously present to what is going well or what you like about yourself, someone else or a particular situation, begins to build new neural pathways in the brain that help to balance this negativity bias. Orienting towards what is going well or what you appreciate shifts your perspective and builds resilience. And, as you might be acutely aware, resilience is everything these days. Our nervous system will actually respond more calmly to stimuli if our perspective is simultaneously holding what is going well along with all the curveballs life throws at us.

So take a few moments each day to try these simple practices and watch for big results:

  1. At dinnertime, invite your family to share one highlight from the day. It might be challenging some days. Remind them that something as simple as the sunlight streaming through the window or witnessing a child play on the playground can be a highlight.

  2. Look for things your partner or family member does or is (their qualities) that you appreciate about them, and when you see something, TELL THEM. Research also shows that the effect of giving appreciation is beneficial.

  3. If you journal or as a new practice, write down something you appreciate about yourself daily. This is sometimes the most challenging for people. It’s like exercising a muscle: it gets easier. Remember: it can be simple, like, I appreciate that I brought my daughter tea while she was studying.

  4. If you notice you are really enjoying something in life (ie… a sunset), take a few seconds to really let that consciously register. In the Turning the Wheel work, we call this practice catching happiness.

  5. Join us to make appreciation Valentines for yourself and your beloveds on February 13th at 2p pst / 3 mst / 4 central / 5 est. Combining creativity with appreciations is a healing balm and joy inducer like no other. Register here:


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