Hold an appreciation afternoon

Focusing on appreciation has a personal and professional benefit.

Consider adding of these appreciation activities to your team. Photo by Laurie Rivetto and Makena Schultz, MSU Extension.
Consider adding of these appreciation activities to your team. Photo by Laurie Rivetto and Makena Schultz, MSU Extension.

Appreciating others and life, in general, can have many positive benefits, as shared in “The Many Benefits of Showing Appreciation,” a research-based article in Psychology TodayGratitude can go a long way in your personal and professional life and has many health benefitsYouth benefit from learning about and practicing appreciation at a young age, too.

Here are a few ways to focus on appreciation and gratitude in your own life and within 4-H clubs and groups.

Thank-you notes. Hand-written thank-you notes are an important part of our personal and professional lives, and despite changes in technology, still have a large impact on society. Thank-you notes are not just for gifts or tangible items. Thank-you notes are good to thank someone for their friendship, their time, for always being a smiling face in your life, or for their support and encouragement.

To practice gratitude with thank-you notes, participants can brainstorm a list of people that they might want to thank. Have the Seven Steps to a Great Thank-You Note handout for participants to reference. After reviewing the seven steps, participants can create a sample thank-you note on loose-leaf paper. Once written, they can re-write the message onto quality thank-you note cards to have a nice finished product they can mail or hand to their recipient.

Appreciation pages. Have colorful paper for participants to list all the things they appreciate about a topic. The topic could be their school, club or group, 4-H project, workplace, hometown or even themselves. Being present and grateful for what we have is helpful for emotional wellness.

Positive attribute cards. Put different colored post-it notes on a table. Write the name of each participant on a larger sheet of paper (12-inch by 18-inch works well). Each participant then writes one positive attribute on a post-it note card for every other person in the group and places it on the corresponding sheet of paper. Encourage participants to write positive character traits such as being a good friend, always helping others, asking good questions, etc., as opposed to physical traits like nice hair or stylish clothes. Participants can write their name or initial the note they write or leave it blank. At the end, each participant takes home their paper with the positive attributes listed there. Participants can hang their positive attribute paper somewhere visible for when a self-worth boost is needed.

Inspiring gratitude jar. Print inspirational or gratitude-based quotes on pieces of paper. To make it more fun, you can print on different colored or patterned paper. Participants cut out the quotes that resonate with them, fold in half and stick inside a jar or container. (A canning jar works well.) Participants can decorate the outside of their jar and every day or on days when feeling discouraged, pull a quote out of the jar for inspiration.

Appreciation calendar. Have group members create an appreciation calendar for use at home, work or in your group or team. Each day or week, list an activity to do related to gratitude and appreciation. Ideas include writing thank-you notes, volunteering, saying thank-you to someone who is under-appreciated or recognizing good service out in the community. Each participant who completes the gratitude task that week records their name on the calendar.

Take a minute to think about someone (whether an individual or organization) who has helped boost you to where you are now. Make sure you are thanking them in person, if possible, and also with a follow-up thank you note. 

Having a positive framework on life can build on an attitude of gratitude and appreciation. This positive framework supports a healthy relationship network, personal life and career path. Take some time to practice gratitude today!

Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help to prepare young people for successful futures. As a result of career exploration and workforce preparation activities, thousands of Michigan youth are better equipped to make important decisions about their professional future, ready to contribute to the workforce and able to take fiscal responsibility in their personal lives. For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or entrepreneurship, contact 4-HCareerPrep@msu.edu.

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