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Let’s Explore Appreciation and Gratitude
Let’s explore appreciation and gratitude
Gratitude is using the concept of being worse-off and leveraging that relief to feel better about our situation. Appreciation is staying mindful of how things are in the moment as a centering practice to remember what really matters.
Be wary of gratitude exercises out of context
Comparing ourselves to others, or even to a past or imaginary version of ourselves is using someone else’s experience to feel better, and that’s a fine line connecting us to the roots of comparison, shame, and supremacy.
Gratitude is a big part of American culture, and a key difference between the colonizer view of a gratitude-based American Thanksgiving and the original appreciation-based observances of Indigenous cultures throughout Turtle Island.
Gratitude is also a big factor in exercises such as fasting during the month of Ramadan, where people fast as an empathy practice to relinquish arrogance and take action to channel this pain toward humility and generous action.
And we’d be silly to erase gratitude as a significant byproduct of what we do here in Raising Luminaries, particularly when we’re reading stories about kids who have it worse than we do. At the same time, it’d be unrealistic to live in ‘happiness appreciation journal land‘ (aka White Lady Instagram) where we wrap ourselves in bubbles of Goop and erase or ignore the people who don’t have the same access we do.
Gratitude can the gateway to a much-needed reality check. My concern with gratitude exercises is that we focus on the exercise and the feelings but rarely channel all that energy into action. What are we doing with the knowledge and emotion generated from a gratitude exercise? Are we taking responsibility for the gap, and going out to change the world? Or are we using the stories of folks who have less to generate a self-serving sense of relief or smug superiority?
So let’s unpack this. To disentangle the difference between gratitude and appreciation, we’ll start by helping kids understand what gratitude means, and the roots of ‘Stop complaining, it could be worse‘ or ‘But there are starving kids in Africa!‘
Books on gratitude
Books on appreciation
- My Heart Fills with Happiness (ages 6 months – 4 years)
- The Table Where Rich People Sit (ages 6+)
- The Little Things (ages 4-8) Caveat for stigmatizing language against older adults
- What’s the difference between gratitude and appreciation?
- How does gratitude make us feel? How does appreciation make us feel?
- How do each of these feelings comfort, motivate, or hold us back from taking action?
Take Action: Show appreciation for your community helpers
Via Revolutionary Humans, Kindness As An Action, Day 7 of 25.
Brainstorm ideas or add your own ways to show appreciation for your community helpers:
- Doodle a note of appreciation
- Call or email a kind note
- Make too many snacks – then share some of those snacks!
How do you show appreciation to your community helpers?
More resources to dig deeper into this topic:
- Kids Stories Cultivating Gratitude & Appreciation
- Birthday books for kind & generous kids
- Post-Consumerism For Kids
- Decolonizing Thanksgiving is an Oxymoron