Authenticity, Gratitude & Appreciation
We live in a world of unprecedented connectivity, but are we truly connecting? Social media, smartphone apps, email—these tools all allow us to have greater access to our loved ones than we’ve ever had before, but immediacy does not always equate intimacy. So, if technology alone isn’t the answer, then what will it take for us to get the deeper connections we crave in our platonic and romantic relationships? Three attributes that anyone can cultivate, and that will lead to greater personal satisfaction and deeper intimacy: authenticity, gratitude, and appreciation.
Defining the Traits: Authenticity, Gratitude, and Appreciation
Psychological research has begun to show that the mindful cultivation of these three traits can benefit both an individual’s peace of mind, as well as their ability to relate meaningfully to others. These traits can be defined as follows:
- Authenticity. This trait is all about “realness.” A person who lives with authenticity lives fully in their truth, and also has a sense of transparency about their feelings and motives. They are genuine, open, and communicative, and committed to expressing their true self as opposed to a carefully calculated version designed to please others. Put simply, authenticity means letting go of who we think we are supposed to be, and embracing who we really are.
- Gratitude. People with this trait are able to fully see and experience the good in the world, and accept that there are many external sources of good, including other people. When you fully embrace the gratitude mindset, you let go of your personal feelings of pride and ego, and become open to the joys that can come into your life freely, including positive people and relationships.
- Appreciation. One way to think of appreciation, is that it’s gratitude with a little turbo boost. That boost come from a key part of this trait—that of “valuing” the source of good in your life. While gratitude can help you feel happier and more at ease, appreciation is all about translating those good vibes into action, namely, expressing the value you feel for the people in your life who bring you a sense of well-being.
The Benefits of Benevolence
Embodying these three traits can bring major benefits to your body, your mind, and your relationships. Research into these feelings indicate that these states of mind can calm your physical body, which can calm your mind. Feeling a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the relationships in your life can help your body move from stress mode into a greater sense of calm, as shown by a slower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, and even improved digestion.
In addition, choosing to be authentic and appreciative in our interactions with others can kick start a positive cycle that become self sustaining. When we are authentic in our appreciation and gratitude with others, we show that we value the relationship. This is what forges a deep emotional bond from heart to heart, especially when we appreciate someone “warts and all.” When someone is authentic and shows us their courage to be imperfect, our appreciation and acceptance can strengthen the bond we have with that person. This increased positivity can give us the trust we need to open up and be vulnerable and authentic ourselves, and the positive cycle continues!
Positive Traits in Action
So, what do these traits look like in action?
First of all, it may be useful to debunk some of the commonly held beliefs about these traits. Too often, the trait of authenticity is devalued. In workplaces and in intimate relationships, people are expected to keep their innermost feelings to themselves. This can be motivated by a desire to please the other person, or a desire to avoid the discomfort of disagreement or vulnerability. The trait of authenticity can also be misrepresented as being selfish or cruel. When someone “speaks their mind,” and issues hurtful comments towards their partner, family, friends, or coworkers, and then hides behind the excuse that they were just being “real,” this does a disservice to the true work of finding your authentic self. Authenticity is not about having “no filter,” rather, it’s about looking deep within yourself and expressing your true thoughts, without blanketing them in defensive mechanisms like insults or aloofness.
When you are truly authentic, you also run the risk of totally dominating the conversation. That’s why authenticity is best paired with a strong feeling of appreciation for the other person, as well as gratitufe for the opportunity to have this connection in the first place. Listening deeply to the other person can enhance your relationship and make your connection stronger. When you truly embody these traits, you are able to listen wholeheartedly, without simply waiting to take your turn and say your piece. Allow yourself to sink into connection with the other person, and, if the person is worth your time and love, that trust will be returned tenfold.
Working towards a more authentic life filled with positive connections can be a challenging mental shift to make, but it can also reap incredible rewards in every aspect of your life. Enjoy less stress, better physical health, and deeper connections with the people you love. Just keep in mind those three words to remind yourself about what truly matters, and sit back and allow the positivity to flow your way.
Emmons, Robert. “Why Gratitude is Good.” Greater Good (November 16, 2010). http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good/
Nelson, Noelle C. The Power of Appreciation: The Key to a Vibrant Life (2011). https://books.google.com/books?id=kAl_MXiDtqYC&lpg=PP1&dq=appreciation&pg=PT11#v=onepage&q=appreciation&f=false
Schwartz, Mel. “Seeking Authenticity.” Psychology Today, (August 2, 2012). https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shift-mind/201208/seeking-authenticity