Well-Being and Authentic Connection
Post Summary: Simple Appreciations, a gratitude-based life-improvement strategy for happiness and well-being. An interpersonal skill for connecting with others, building relationships, and getting invited to communities. A mix of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), mindfulness, compliments and gratitude journaling.
For some time now, I have expressed appreciation straight-forwardly. Simple Appreciations make people light up with happy smiles; it is one of my favourite communication habits.
After picking up Simple Appreciations, I have started getting invited to more contexts. People tell me that I brighten their days and help them appreciate life. They want to spend more time with me. I feel more appreciation and happiness, leading to increased productivity and general well-being.
In this post, I will tell you about Simple Appreciations, go through why I believe they are so effective, and end with the practical steps I’ve taken to incorporate them into my life.
I hope that this post will help you live a happy life with friends who support you in growing as a person.
What is Simple Appreciations?
The core of the idea is simple: whenever I experience a positive emotion directed at someone, I express appreciation as simply and directly as possible.
Here are some examples, all said in a heartfelt, emotionally connected way: “I’m happy you are here”, “I start smiling when I see you, I like having you around”, “I like you”, “I like talking to you”.
The Benefits of Simple Appreciations
Expressing positive feelings in simple ways has a lot of benefits! Let me run through the benefits I’ve experienced!
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy & Gratitude Journalling
The basis of cognitive behavioural therapy is the idea that your actions, emotions and thoughts all affect each other. By focusing on the things you are grateful for, you will feel happier, leading to an increase in well-being. A gratitude journal is one way to focus more on things you are grateful for. I’ll talk about my take on gratitude journalling later in this post!
I haven’t found any research, but I’m confident that Simple Appreciations increase well-being in the same way gratitude journalling does. Similar to gratitude journalling, Simple Appreciations highlights the things you are grateful for. Feeling grateful is a good first step towards feeling great.
Simple Appreciations have a key benefit compared to traditional gratitude journaling— they are social.
Expressing appreciation helps the other person appreciate your mutual connection, contributing to their level of well-being as well as yours. Besides affecting the other person in isolation, your relationship is also strengthened. Mutually appreciating a connection is a win-win-win.
Expressing Gratitude - Keeping it Simple
Many people wrap their appreciations into “grown-up” language, finding socially acceptable ways to express appreciation. They might say things like “Thank you for showing up and helping out with X”, or “Thank you for being there for me when Y”.
This doesn’t always work. Sometimes you simply feel appreciation. Sometimes you don’t have a socially acceptable reason for your appreciation. Don’t waste time and energy trying to find an excuse. Expressing the appreciation in a simple and heartfelt way is enough!
Expressing appreciation for one person makes it easier to feel appreciation for someone else. By expressing appreciation in simple ways, you can express appreciation towards multiple people without having to figure out socially acceptable reasons for doing so.
Supporting Others Through Performance Anxiety and Low Self-Esteem
People with low self-esteem are appreciation-resistant. They are afraid to be disappointed, and “wave away” expressions of appreciation rather than risking taking them to heart. They fear interpreting appreciation that isn’t there.
My experience expressing Simple Appreciation is that it “lands”, leaving people surprised and delighted. Simple appreciations are easy to express and easy to receive, as long as the requisite feeling is there.
I find this to be especially valuable when I notice people getting intimidated by me. Sometimes when I dive into analysis while talking to a new person, they start doubting their ability to contribute. I usually enjoy the conversation and want to help them get out of performance anxiety-driven self-doubt.
If I meet them in their anxious frame and try to reassure them by saying something like “It’s not a problem, I think you are contributing […]”, I accept the idea that conversations are about performance. This kind of response risks increasing their performance anxiety. It’s likely that they “wave away” the reassurance, not taking it to heart.
A better way to help people let go of performance anxiety is by using Simple Affirmations. When someone I care about starts doubting themselves, I sense into my appreciation for them and express it as directly as I can. I look them in the eyes, and say something like “I like you, and enjoy talking to you”.
By expressing appreciation in a simple, heartfelt, and direct way, the conversation opens up and a sense of safety emerges.
Authentic Compliments & Relationship Building
Simple affirmations are potent compliments. Compliments might be a loaded subject for you—many people feel icky about them. Compliments feel icky because they are often abused.
The best kind of compliments are those that connect with an aspect of relating that’s part of your ongoing experience. This type of compliment highlights and celebrates the act of relating, thereby strengthening the relationship.
Disconnected compliments don’t have this relationship-affirming effect. They can be old placeholders—empty words you say out of habit. They can be transactional—something you say to gain an advantage. Flattery is a weak approximation of true connection.
If you want to give authentic and relationship-affirming compliments, it’s important to keep them anchored to your feelings. Don’t just say the words! Express your lived experience of appreciation!
Authentic Connection, not Performance
If you feel insecure about expressing appreciation, one possible response is trying to be smooth. I think this is misguided. Trying to express yourself smoothly risks turning the heart-felt appreciation into a performance. Focusing on the performative aspects of your expression pulls focus away from your sense of appreciation. If you lose connection to your sense of appreciation, you lose the ability to express an emotionally connected compliment.
Smoothness is overrated. Focus on the emotional connection and keep it simple. If you focus on describing your sense of appreciation in the current moment, you will never end up not knowing what to say.
Relational Gratitude Journaling
Gratitude journalling is a potent practice. Every four days, I sit down and write about the things I’m grateful for. Doing this practice leaves me feeling happy. It’s also a good check⸺it’s hard to write about gratitude when I’m stressed, so if I find myself unable to get into the gratitude mindset, I know that I’m due some self-care.
I have tweaked the practice to be more relational, by committing to reaching out and sharing any appreciation that’s connected to people in my life. Sometimes, I feel gratitude towards someone I haven’t interacted with for a while. Reaching out and sharing my appreciation has always been appreciated.
I’ve translated a message for you! I sent it to a friend some time ago. Here it is:
”I wrote a gratitude journal now, and started thinking of you. You are nice to hang out 1on1 with, and amazing at holding fantastic spaces 🙂 I am glad to have you in my life 🙂”
I hope this post inspires you to express more appreciation in your life. If you try it out, please leave a comment sharing what happened! Best of luck!
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P.S: In my philosophy practice, I hold space for individuals regarding their most pressing concerns. You can schedule a session through the link below. You can read more about my practice here.