When I think about gratitude, I think about showing appreciation for the people who make your life great — your partner, your parents, your coworker who’s always around to hear you complain about your other coworker.
But apparently, there’s someone else who needs your appreciation, as much or more than the rest of those people: You.
Don’t get squirmy, now. You don’t need to hug yourself or write yourself love notes (unless you want to) — you just have to recognise how hard you’re trying to be the person you want to be.
That’s according to Janice Kaplan, author of “The Gratitude Diaries,” a book that chronicles her yearlong effort to practice more gratitude in different areas of her life, from her marriage to her career.
Towards the end of the book, Kaplan recalls meeting a friend’s fitness trainer who incorporates this kind of self-gratitude into her work with clients. The trainer told Kaplan to thank herself daily, specifically for her efforts toward getting healthier.
“Dedicate five minutes of your day to believing you can do this and being thankful you can,” the trainer told Kaplan.
“If all you’re thinking about is that you need to lose weight, you’re not remembering to be grateful that you’re strong, grateful that you can buy healthy food, grateful that it’s gorgeous weather and you can take a walk.”
According to the trainer, self-gratitude is more motivating than feeling miserable about how much you weigh or how you look. Kaplan started keeping a note card on her kitchen counter that read “Strong” on one side and “Thank you, I’m Strong!” on the other.
Kristin Neff, a psychologist and a lead researcher in the field of self-compassion, calls this type of behaviour “self-appreciation.” Whereas self-compassion generally refers to dealing with failures and setbacks, self-appreciation involves celebrating our best qualities.
In a blog post on her website, Neff writes that many people are worried about feeling vain or narcissistic. But Neff says you should appreciate your good qualities the same way you’d praise a friend’s positive traits.
Plus, you don’t have to express this gratitude out loud; thinking grateful thoughts about yourself should suffice.
When Kaplan visited the Business Insider office in August, she told us why it’s important to be grateful to yourself in the context of your professional achievements:
“You don’t really want to have gratitude to be only in the rearview mirror. So take a moment right now, say, ‘Hey, here’s what I’ve done today, here’s what I’ve done this year. Maybe it’s not exactly what I wanted, maybe I’m not yet where I wanted to be, but I’m ok. I’ve done the best I can so far.'”
Like the trainer, Kaplan thinks that being grateful to yourself for what you have accomplished is inspiration to accomplish even more.
“When you give yourself that positive boost,” she said, “it does help you move forward and does help you do better in the future.”
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