There is something special about Thanksgiving: It is a holiday reminding us of something to do, not only on one day but throughout the year. It is like other holidays in that it is based on the remembrance of an earlier event, but the name itself is based on an action: giving thanks.
Recently I’ve been learning more about the power of appreciation in relationships—giving thanks for the people we love and expressing it to them. In his book, Outsmarting Yourself, Dr. Karl Lehman* describes research that supports the benefits of appreciation. For example, in Gottman’s research on what makes marriages last shows that deliberately appreciating one’s spouse predicts a lasting, happy marriage. From a neurological perspective, appreciation can increase the release of oxytocin, a hormone that makes people feel happier and promotes relational bonding.
Making a conscious effort to appreciate others, or finding specific things that they have done that you are grateful for, allows your interaction with them to be a source of joy. Going a step forward and telling others how you appreciate them encourages them to further enjoy interaction with you and creates a positive environment for making good memories.It also makes it easier to overcome negative responses when conflict is imminent.
My challenge to you, and to myself, would be to identify at least two people that you know and identify a memory of something he or she has done that you appreciate and a trait that you appreciate evident in that memory. Then take it a step further and find a way to let them know of that appreciation!
Another form of appreciation we often overlook is the value of appreciating God. We may at times make an effort to give thanks for the ways he has blessed us, and being grateful for times he has helped us is very valuable. But it is easy to forget to appreciate his very nature. Just as expression of appreciation promotes our relationships with other people, spending time doing the same thing with God promotes a greater intimacy with him.
The Bible says: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1 and many other times!). This psalm goes on to describe a time when God brought refuge and victory.
We can do the same thing! Take time to identify a memory where you experienced the goodness of God and tell him all that you appreciate about what he did at that time and the traits that were displayed. Then take it a step further and appreciate his presence in the moment!
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
*These thoughts about appreciation are closely related to Dr. Lehman’s model of the “Immanuel Approach,” based on intimacy with God.