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Appreciation vs Gratitude

While working on a writing project recently I was asked, “Why don’t you use the word gratitude instead of appreciation?” The person asking is a fan of the Joyful Journey book and the interactive gratitude process taught in it. (And so am I!)

At first I thought, “why not?” Everyone is on the gratitude craze right now... Ann VosKamp, The Gratitude Movement, even Oprah has a gratitude journal… I could just join right in on that train and go places!

Then I started to wonder, are appreciation and gratitude really the same thing? Is it okay to use them interchangeably? A simple google search led me to realize that this was not a debate easily solved!

One site claimed- Appreciation is like “love”, and alignment with who you really are, gratitude is for when you’re thankful for change, you’re happy to have overcome.

Another site posed- Appreciation is for specific moments, things in context. Gratitude is for abstract, theoretical concepts.

So, I posted the question to my Facebook followers. More debate followed!

One person was quite certain that appreciation was much more personal, while another considered appreciation a “lighter” feeling and gratitude to be a much deeper emotion.

Some thought appreciation led to gratitude, others thought gratitude led to appreciation.

Everyone agreed they both were good!

I even invited the experts in my realm, Dr. Karl Lehman and Dr. Jim Wilder into my quest….and still I couldn’t find a definite agreed upon definition, let alone a “winner” of the debate!

In Outsmarting Yourself, Lehman uses the 2 terms inter-changeably and doesn’t consider a preference of one over the other.

Dr. Wilder, who has used BOTH in his writings at different times and prefers to use “gratitude” when teaching audiences in the church or those not struggling with relationship issues, and found appreciation to be the better term when teaching people with traumatic backgrounds. (Connexus always refers to appreciation) Scientifically appreciation doesn’t require the “feeler” to be in a relationship with someone to feel it. Gratitude does.

By definition, appreciation involves the recognition, enjoyment, and full sensitive understanding of the value of something. Gratitude is the readiness to show or express appreciation to someone else for what was felt.

According to these definitions, appreciation involves the SENSES. I think this is a key to why I prefer to think about appreciation. When we are able to be in touch with our body sensations, our brain regions synchronize and connect. The Pre-Frontal Cortex engages and our “RCs” are on.

This makes it POSSIBLE for us to engage with others in an expression of gratitude!

Appreciation is the “Calgon- take me away” feeling of a warm bath that when purposefully thought about, can literally take me away again. When I’m in that warm bubble bath with candles and soft music, I’m astutely aware of the way it makes my body feel. I breathe in deep and feel how my body floats with every inhale and sinks with every exhale. The relaxation I feel makes me moan softly. I can smell the lavender in the bubbles and see the soft candle lights flicker across the bubbles and the shadows bounce on the walls. I appreciate every second.

Gratitude is the result of the appreciation I feel that prompts me to tell someone about it or thank someone for it. As Wilder told me, “Gratitude is relational”.

Gratitude takes my mind off the bubbles and the warm feelings, and focuses on my husband. I want nothing more than to let him know that I am so thankful that he suggested I do this, and even went out of his way to get it ready for me.

Gratitude benefits the relationship.

Appreciation benefits my soul, my core, my psychological well-being.

Appreciation can occur when something happens, and again when I remember that moment intentionally.

Appreciation doesn’t require us to interact with someone else.

I hate to be blunt here, but to be honest, I know quite a few people who have real difficulty with relationships. While I know that relationships are key, and they are the goal, I don’t expect people who struggle in this area to be able to start there. Asking them to express gratitude right away is kind of like asking them to hit a home run the first time they pick up a bat.

Appreciation is the “gateway” drug for those of us that struggle with relationships and things like “optimism” and “happiness”. Appreciation can help create those much-needed links between the neurons in our brain without causing us to lock up in fear over having to tell someone thanks!

So, while BOTH of them are GREAT things to think about and focus on, I plan to continue to START with appreciation and work UP to gratitude, but I’ll always come back to resting in appreciation because it just feels so good!

If you’d like a free copy of my “Appreciation Journal” that will walk you through remembering the “full sensitive understanding of the value of something” follow me on Facebook and join my mailing list.

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