I love practicing appreciation and encouraging others to do the same. Practicing appreciation is a powerful change agent for the brain. It helps us to "stay in the front" of our brain where we can be in touch with who we are and stay interested in relationship with God and other people.
For the past decade as I've been growing into a lifestyle where appreciation feels like my normal state, I've been focusing on experiencing appreciation of past events, and current events.
Honestly- when I first started this journey, I could only seem to do it with "past events". Like, remembering a special moment that I didn't stop to appreciate when it first happened.
Later, I began to be able to recognize that I was appreciating things in the now. I found myself better able to be present in today and notice when things were making me smile.
Appreciation in my life was growing.
Recently, I've become aware that there is a way to appreciate the future too!
Positive EXPECTATIONS are like "appreciation" of the future.
My brain responds to these forward appreciation thoughts with the same cocktail of dopamine and serotonin!
This realization has been monumental in increasing my ability to be hopeful, to find joy and to shut down fear.
You see, the opposite of positive expectations is: worry.
Worry is basically a negative expectation for the future. It is a fear based thought.
Worry likes to pretend that it has influence on a positive outcome, when really it only has the ability to increase the chances of a negative outcome!
Worry- and expecting bad things to happen- works on a positive feedback loop. I expect bad things, I get bad things, and therefore I can then pat myself on the back and say, "See, I told you so".
Positive expectations- the belief that something good is going to happen - is a little more risky. Sometimes, we overshoot and put unrealistic expectations on our future selves and end up disappointed.
I think this is why most of us have learned to worry instead. We don't like to feel disappointed. We don't like to "get our hopes up" and have them ripped out from underneath us.
But there is a difference between "Appreciation- forward" and head in the clouds, over the top unrealistic expectations.
You see, giving yourself a forecast for appreciation DOES prime our brain to notice things it appreciates! This expectation of appreciation is a totally realistic expectation.
It's not saying that I'm going to win the lottery today, or Prince Charming is going to show up on a white horse and rescue me today- those are not realistic expectations!
It is saying- today is a good day to have a good day. :) (stole that line from Fixer Upper!)
Appreciation- forward says that I'm pretty sure something is going to make me smile today. It sets me up for a scavenger hunt. It fills my mind with anticipation- of looking around every corner for that one thing that will light up my face and fill my heart with delight.
Dr. Daniel Siegel, a brilliant neuroscientist and author, often recommends that his clients practice a "Gratitude Exercise" every night before they go to bed. It's similar to the 3x3x3 exercise they talk about at THRIVE.
The point of these exercises is to think of at least 1 thing you've experienced that caused you to feel gratitude or appreciation before you fall asleep.
This ONLY WORKS because it causes you to be on the look out for those things all day long!
My add to this exercise is to wake up each morning with an expectation that appreciation IS out there for you, and all you have to do is find it!
Go on a treasure hunt of appreciation every single day and I promise your bucket will get filled!