Last fall, for two and a half months, my husband was working far away from home. He took on a job as expedition guide on an adventure cruise ship which was navigating from the Great Lakes of North America, down the Pacific to the southern tip of Argentina. From there he was on several expeditions to the Antarctic, where he dealt with extreme weather conditions and unexpected circumstances.
His trip to the frozen continent of Antarctica could have been a frozen and difficult time for our relationship as well.
Far away from home for so long, with very limited and weak internet connection, with a time difference which was changing every other day depending on the ship’s geographical location, with intense work schedules for both of us, you can only imagine how our communication started to break down. After two weeks of us getting frustrated over not finding a way to schedule our conversations and realizing ad hoc calls were not an option, we finally accepted that with so many variables, communication will suffer. And, as we all know, poor communication leads to disconnection and discontent. Something we both wanted to avoid.
One day as I was meditating, I was reflecting on what could we do to improve the situation and appreciation came to mind. I realised that in the midst of the changes and frustrations we forgot to appreciate one other.
So, I proposed a challenge to my husband. Every day, for the remaining days until he came home, we will both find a way to send a daily message to acknowledge the other’s contributions, to admire something the other has done or simply to be grateful for their presence in our life.
Research has shown that appreciation has a calming effect on the brain, that it helps us get over difficult feedback and focuses our mind on constructive communication. It appears that our brain releases reward hormones such as dopamine into our pre-frontal cortex, the CEO of our brain. This can help us listen, accept, think, and respond better in all circumstances.
Appreciation is most effective when we are:
Sincerity is most important. We can smell an insincere appreciation miles away. Sincerity builds trust while insincerity destroys it. An insincere appreciation it’s manipulative and it’s worse than no appreciation at all.
Succinct it means to be clear and to the point. If we use too many words we could get lost in explanations and our point might not come across. Staying concise and using the minimum number of words makes the brain’s job easier and the appreciation is easily accepted.
Specific refers to the examples we give and the precise details we offer. When we make the appreciation specific it can make a great deal of difference. Our brain connects the dots easier and receives the appreciation as genuine.
As a rule of thumb, a ratio of 5 appreciations to 1 constructive criticism fosters great communication, connection, and a thinking environment where people feel heard, valued, and considered. It builds trust, abundance, and leads to happiness.
My husband and I started to look forward to our daily messages. We went from complains and disagreements to joy and ease. Every morning when I woke up, as I opened the phone, I found a lovely message of appreciation that warmed my heart. And even better than receiving, it was giving appreciation. Throughout the day I would pleasantly think and select what to appreciate him for. And every time I thought of an appreciation I would send it to him in my mind, knowing that the energy of appreciation will reach him even before the written message.
So, I challenge you to give appreciation a try! It can do miracles if it comes from the heart.
Lots of Love, Carmen x
PS: We look forward to seeing you at our upcoming Community Event where we will be practicing meditation and mindfulness on 26th January via zoom. Also, we challenge you to join us on a 28 Days Transformative Meditation Challenge starting 1st of February, 2023!
PPS: If you would like to learn more about appreciation we recommend to read or listen to Time to Think by Nancy Kline.