The Greater Gift

Could there possibly be a better time of the year than now to practice specific appreciation? Stressed, worried or simply worn out, try specific appreciation and you’ll find that it lifts your spirit in ways you’ve always hoped the holidays would.

Specific appreciation means explaining to someone exactly what it is that they do or have done that makes you glad and grateful. A few examples:

To a clerk who rings up your purchases: “I really appreciate your smile. These are long days for all of us and you’ve made mine brighter.”

To a co-worker unfazed by pressures of the season: “Holidays are a big distraction and I admire how you stay focused on doing your job as well as ever.”

To a Salvation Army bell-ringer: “Thanks for keeping tradition alive. It wouldn’t be Christmas without you.”

It takes so little time and thought to show someone specific appreciation. And as you will discover when you praise people this way, the good feelings you inspire return to you tenfold.

In his many wonderful books about how to have a good life, Dr. Wayne Dyer points out that kindness toward someone is its own reward, in several ways. The person you compliment feels good. You feel good. And anyone who sees your thoughtfulness feels good as well! Think of how much joy you could experience and spread in just one day through specific appreciation!

There’s so much in life to appreciate that, when you look around for it, it bowls you over. Unfortunately, we more often seek out the negative, taking it as an excuse to be unappreciative. But looking for reasons to be grumpy is like eating spoiled food just to prove that you were right to say it would taste awful: “See, (gasp, gag) I told you so!”

Rather than this “cut-off-your-own-nose-to-spite-your face” attitude, why not celebrate the people and things that you appreciate—and let them know it?

There’s that driver who yields to you in a crowded mall parking lot with a wave and a smile. The homeowners who put up decorative lights for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. The folks in the office who bring in holiday treats for all to share. The thoughtfulness of these people benefits you, whether it is Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza or some other time of year. What if you wrote them notes of appreciation expressly stating how it is that they please you?

Specific appreciation has many virtues. It’s a clever way to thank people who do something nice for you even if that is their job. It’s a graceful “I care about you” to someone who already knows your regard but loves to feel it time and again, delivered in a way that is always unique. It’s also a means to credit yourself for what you accomplish, instead of punishing yourself for all that’s left to do.

Think of the energy boost you’d get telling yourself, “I’m doing it! I’m doing what needs to be done and I’m being nice to people along the way! Yay, me!”

These year-end holidays can be a melancholy stretch or a cheery break for me. It depends on whether I show people my specific appreciation for how they affect me by who they are, what they say and what they do. Reaching out this way always banishes the blues—mine and others’—and makes us all happier.

Today’s newspaper tells of a “secret Santa” who’s spreading joy here in Phoenix by giving 100-dollar bills to people in need. Recognition that enriching may be beyond your budget. I’m sure, though, that it’s well within your means to be a “specific appreciation Santa.”

Thanks, everyone, for being my faithful and sustaining readers these past 12 months. A happy, happy holiday to all of you! May we each know the joy of giving strangers, friends and dear ones our specific appreciation this season, for it always returns us gifts far greater than any praise or thanks that we bestow.

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