Building Appreciation

It's easy for us to appreciate what makes us happy. But how do we appreciate the things that don't?

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Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash
Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash

We increase our levels of happiness and fulfillment by practicing gratitude. So states cognitive scientist and Yale professor Laurie Santos in her course The Science of Well-Being. Meanwhile, Carol Dweck’s psychology research supports this finding by explaining that the neural pathways inside our brain strengthen each time we actively practice any skill — gratitude being one of them.

But what about when we’re not feeling happy or thankful?

Sometimes there’s little joy to be had, and it’s hard to find cheer. Take, for example, COVID-19 and the havoc it has wreaked on the world this year. How can we live with fulfillment given these conditions?

Co-Active Training Institute facilitator Susan Carlisle states that what’s important is not getting to a happy place, but appreciating what is there. That is to say, it’s about finding the value and learning behind any given situation, even when life gets tough and throws us into despair.

Let’s take this pandemic year as an example of how to do this work. To begin, grab your journal.

Photo by Aakanksha Panwar on Unsplash

Follow these 5 reflective prompts to find appreciation amid the pandemic.

  1. What am I learning from the pandemic about my community and world?
  2. What about myself am I learning?
  3. What values have I seen brought to life through COVID, quarantines, and restrictions?
  4. What about each value is important to me?
  5. In what ways does this time and place contribute to my lifelong journey?

No matter what life throws at us, there is learning to be had and value to be found. Continue to reflect and journal, whether you find yourself at highs or lows. And by building appreciation, you will experience deeper meaning and fulfillment — even amid a pandemic.


Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.

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