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Unlocking Appreciation: Taking Gratitude to the Next Level by Amber Long

Oh, November! With Thanksgiving right around the corner, you can probably imagine the smell of the turkey in the oven, the taste of Grandma’s homemade pies for dessert, and the sound of Grandpa snoring in the recliner with the football game in the background.

In November, we all stop for a second and think about what we are thankful for. It’s like we let ourselves become aware of how many blessings we truly have.

When I was a kid, my mom would have us do 26 days of gratitude; we would go through the alphabet, one letter at a time, thinking of things we were thankful for that started with that letter. X was always really tricky!

I think we have almost programmed ourselves to spend November being grateful. How many social media challenges have you been tagged in with gratitude as the goal?

And gratitude is fantastic! We all know it’s good for our hearts, outlooks, thoughts, and overall general demeanor!

This November, I encourage you to kick gratitude up a notch.

For so many of us, gratitude has become a left-brained thinking activity. We can rattle off things we are thankful for. We might even challenge ourselves to think outside the box and uncover different things to be grateful for. But if we’re honest, most of our gratitude stops and ends in our thinking. It doesn’t make its way to our hearts.

I’ve learned to see gratitude as using a pencil to sketch a drawing. No matter how talented you are at drawing, it’s still in black and white. It might look neat, but something is still missing.

That’s gratitude; it’s the outline, the structure, but it could be so much more.

No one buys a coloring book and puts the uncolored pictures on their fridge! You wait until those pictures are colored in before you display them.

Coloring in what has been drawn is how I view appreciation.

It takes the structure and what we are grateful for and adds vibrancy and depth. Appreciation brings gratitude to life!

colored pencils

Appreciation, much like coloring in a picture, takes time and intentionality.

Let me give you an example. As I’ve been learning appreciation, I practiced once by thinking about my husband. I knew I was grateful for his work ethic. He works so hard to provide for our family. But instead of just telling Jesus, “I’m thankful for my husband’s work ethic.” I took some time to unpack that, and it sounded something like this:

“I appreciate how hard Erik works for our family. Because of his work ethic, he’s an amazing employee. His boss relies on him and trusts him. He works hard when he comes home, no matter how tired. He helps around the house without complaint. He is always willing to run kids to and from practice. He often asks what he can do to help out around the house. He’ll engage in helping make dinner. He’s a good example to our boys of what a provider acts like. I appreciate how hard Erik works for our family.”

You see, I took this thing I am grateful for and colored it in. I allowed myself to think of examples that promote my original thought. And now, my right brain is involved because I feel supported and cared for by how my husband provides for our family.

Do you want to know a secret? When I’m in this place of appreciation, it’s easier for me to connect relationally. It also makes me want to find more good things about the people I love, so now I’m looking for things I’m grateful for to spend time appreciating them.

Now it’s your turn; go ahead and try it. Take your gratitude list and pick something or someone from that list. Set a timer for 3 minutes and color in your gratitude. Let your gratitude flow into appreciation. Bonus points if you share with someone else what you appreciate!

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