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Healthy Minds in Practice: Appreciating Friends and Loved Ones

Illustration courtesy iStock

With the holidays happening during this challenging pandemic, many of us are craving connection. Whether we can be with our friends and family this season or not, we can still strengthen our connections and nurture relationships. This 10-minute practice guides you through focusing on the positive qualities of your loved ones as a way to feel more connected to them and more appreciative of the impact they have on your life.


Guided Practice: Appreciating Friends and Loved Ones

Led by Cortland Dahl

Hi, this is Cort. Welcome back. Today we’ll work on the skill of appreciation. We often focus on the negative in ourselves and others. In this practice, we’ll spend some time training to see the good in our friends and loved ones. When we appreciate their strengths, it’s easier to feel more connected to the people we care about. 

Let’s begin by settling into a comfortable posture. Make sure that you feel both relaxed and alert in your meditation posture.  

Feel free to close your eyes, or keep them open. Whatever feels comfortable. 

Take a few deep breaths and notice what you feel right now. It can be helpful to label your experience. You can say simple words like, “relaxed” or “tense,” to yourself to capture what you notice in the body. 

Okay, now bring to mind a good friend or family member. Notice who comes to mind first - don’t overthink it. Just go with whoever comes to mind. Someone you like. Take some time to imagine them here with you. Sense how it feels to be in their presence. 

Now bring to mind one of their best qualities. Maybe they’re patient, diligent, or fun. Maybe they have a great laugh. Maybe they’re quirky or clever. Pick one or two good qualities, and simply reflect on these for a moment or two. 

Great. Next, we’ll reflect on what they’re good at. This could be something really simple, like how they care for other people. Or how they’re hard-working. Take a moment to appreciate what your loved one does well. 

If it helps you appreciate, you can try putting this skill into words. Imagine you’re complimenting them. How would you express your appreciation? 

Let’s continue this contemplation for another minute or so. Think of more skills and qualities your loved one has, and appreciate them. If you like, imagine expressing your appreciation. 

OK. You can let go of trying to notice the positive in your loved one and bring awareness back to your body. Notice how your body feels now. Whatever you feel is fine, even if you don’t feel anything at all. Allow for any sensations, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. 

Let’s try this again. Think of another person you care about. Is there a quality they have, or something they’re good at, that you really appreciate? This might be something that you don’t usually notice. Again, be creative and see what comes to mind. 

Continue to reflect on whatever you appreciate about this person. Feel free to imagine expressing your appreciation. Imagine telling them how you feel and how they might respond. 

Sometimes unexpected emotions come up when we do this. You might feel frustrated, or inadequate in the face of your loved one’s strengths. Whatever comes up, pause for a few moments and simply notice what that emotion feels like. Be patient, feel the breath, and allow any emotions to move through.

Okay, now let go of the meditation and simply be aware. Gently open your eyes if they’ve been closed. Look around the room and notice your surroundings. Allow any thoughts or emotions to release and unwind. 

Nice work. You just trained your mind to appreciate the positive. You can apply this skill when you come in contact with other people. Just take a moment to notice their good qualities. You might even express your appreciation with a compliment, if it feels right. Just stay curious and see how many good things you can notice in yourself, in other people and in the world around you.

Awareness. Connection. Insight. Purpose. We consider these to be four ingredients of a healthy mind. You can train yourself to improve these skills, just like you can develop any habit. This audio practice is provided by Healthy Minds Innovations (HMI), an external, affiliated nonprofit dedicated to supporting the mission of the Center for Healthy Minds. Want more practices? Try the Healthy Minds Program App.

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