What is appreciation? Well, a quick online search tells me that appreciation is actually defined in two ways:

  1. Enjoying and recognizing something for its good qualities and/or

  2. A complete understanding of something.

In this regard, appreciation can be used to feel and express gratitude, or to simply honor something through understanding and awareness.

In either respect, appreciation is an opportunity for presence and gratitude. The act of being grateful for something, or becoming aware of something completely, provides a space for expansion.

Expansion is a space for personal and spiritual growth, and brings you closer towards your higher self and ultimately, enlightenment.

In celebration of International Friendship Day on July 30, you can consider how to apply the tool of appreciation to your friendships as well.

In this article, I write about the two definitions of appreciation I mentioned above as tools for expansion, gratitude, and practicing awareness. I also will present five tools for expansion through awareness.

Appreciation as Gratitude

Every thought we have moves us closer or further from our Higher Selves and highest truth.

Gratitude brings us into higher frequencies of love, which are expansive and open by nature.

Thoughts that produce judgments, feelings of hopelessness, despair, fear, worry, or feeling superior are destructive and creates lower vibrations.

We know from the Law of Attraction that like attracts like. The more grateful we choose to be at any moment, the more of the same we will attract in our lives and in our friendships.

Friendships are symbiotic and reciprocal relationships that benefit immensely from practicing gratitude.

Photo Credit: Tyle Nix

In the same way, if you want to expand your personal practices, business, spiritual growth, and overall life - it starts within your mind.

You magnetize your reality from your thoughts. The more you tune into the thoughts that are enjoying and recognizing things and people for their good, loving, and light qualities, the more you will continue to bring these qualities towards you.

Neuroscience shows us that you can create new neural pathways through repetition and habit. This goes for your thoughts about yourself, others, and the world as a whole. (Learn more in How to Choose Love Over Fear With Each Thought.)

Over time, the more you practice gratitude, the more it becomes your automatic thought.

You can choose to see what you perceive to be good, and raise your vibration this way. Through this, you expand your heart space, bring this energy into your friendships, and become more aligned with your Higher Self.

Expansion Through Practicing Awareness

As I mentioned, we are primed by our brain to follow neural pathways that are familiar. It does not matter if a thought produces pleasure or pain so much as if it is familiar and therefore easy for the brain to execute.

Without diligent work, the mind will follow the path of least resistance.

We are creatures of habit. That is why practice is so important if you want to change a habit pattern of the mind or otherwise create new awareness.

Photo Credit: Motoki Tonn

The second definition of appreciation speaks to presence. You cannot fully appreciate something or someone without your presence.

Presence takes practice of conscious awareness. The more that you take the mental space and time to fully understand, the less you may find yourself reacting to the world around you. (Learn more in 6 Techniques to Staying Present.)

This includes taking the time to fully appreciate yourself, other people, situations you find yourself in, world conflict, and the list goes on.

Appreciating the complexity, differences, and magnitude of all the parts of the Universe helps us to expand spiritually, and learn to be present for all of it. This ripples out from you into all of your friendships and other areas in your life as well.

5 Things You Can Do To Expand Through Appreciation

1. Meditating Upon Awakening

This is something I recommend to everyone, and especially those who may feel like they tend towards judgmental and critical thoughts soon after awakening.

Meditating on love, light, and gratitude upon awakening can help you to open your heart and set your entire day up for expansion through appreciating what is good in the world.

If this is a challenge to do on your own, find a guided meditation that helps to plant these seeds of expansion. Trade this in for your morning coffee and see how it energizes you energetically. (Learn more in Fill Your Mind, Body and Soul: A Morning Ritual to Start Your Days.)

Photo Credit: Mark Zamora

2. Start a Gratitude Journal

This tool is an effective way to rewire your brain to focus on the parts of life you appreciate instead of the ones you don’t. Research shows that it is more effective to write about something you are grateful for in detail rather than creating a short list.

Dive in and really feel your heart expanding with grateful love! (Learn more in
Yoga for Self-Love: Tapping into Your Heart Chakra.)

3. Present Moment Awareness

Appreciate each moment. Stop and smell the flowers. If you notice yourself telling yourself stories about the past or future, stop and notice it.

Notice how it affects your body and mind, and make a choice to be in the present moment. Use your senses to ground. (Learn more in Grounding Through the Senses: Mindfulness Techniques to Help You get Grounded.)

Notice the colors, smells, and sights. Notice the breath. Notice each leg of a spider and each node of its web.

Notice the way your best friend laughs and smiles.

Notice the divinity of the Universe and fully appreciate it, as often as you can.

4. Thought Stopping and Transforming

A tool taught in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for unhelpful thoughts is “thought stopping.” Allowing thoughts to flow and pass is important, yet when you notice yourself endlessly repeating unhelpful thoughts it is a time to tell yourself “STOP.”

From there, you can choose to transform your thoughts into a more appreciative one.

Say you come home and notice your roommate hasn’t cleaned up the house as you hoped they would. You may begin to tell yourself stories about how you are not supported, that you have to do everything, they don’t care about you, or you are too tired to deal with this… STOP.

Notice these thoughts and choose to reframe them with love, compassion and appreciation. Maybe you will notice something you didn’t from this space (like maybe they didn’t clean because they received hard news, or they did another household task instead that you didn’t see). (Learn more in You Are Not Your Thoughts.)

5. Guided Meditations and Yoga Practice Focusing on Oneness

To appreciate your oneness with the Universe, you can practice any meditation or yoga class/practice that guides you in reaffirming this connection to all that is.

Messages you hear while in meditation or while moving through a yoga practice can penetrate deeper into your subconscious because you are in a more relaxed and influenceable state - almost like the way hypnotism works.

Plant these seeds of awareness in your consciousness during times when they are most likely to be received and internalized. (Learn more in Dissolve the Ego With This Guided Meditation to Reveal the True You.)

Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle

Uniting With the Universe

Through expansion, we can move closer to uniting with our Higher Selves and appreciating our oneness with all living beings and the entire Universe.

In truth, you are not separate from anyone or anything.

Appreciating your friends and life as a whole through gratitude is a way to open your heart and raise your vibration. Yoga is the union of the Self with all that is.

Appreciation could be considered part of “right thinking and meditation,” which Swami Vishnudevananada spoke about as one of the classical teachings of yoga.

We must cultivate appreciation through gratitude and presence to create expansion, ultimately uniting with our Higher Selves and the oneness of the Universe.