Thanksgiving is just around the corner and with it, especially on social media, comes all the gratitude posts. November isn’t the only month to feel and act thankful, however. Are you living in an attitude of gratitude all year long or are you one of those who are feeling pessimistic and not feeling grateful? Did you know that gratitude is an essential ingredient for a successful love relationship? It’s true. People who live with a positive thankful outlook are overall healthier and happier.
The effect of gratitude
Living in a positive way with gratitude as a key ingredient is conducive to mental and physical well-being. Positivity reduces aggression and depression and makes us happier, more confident people. This mental and emotional well-being allows us to be more adaptable and resilient when hard times challenge us.
Why gratitude helps relationships
As a therapist, I tend to see people at their very worst. They’re often deeply entrenched in negative cycles that have them saying the most horrible and degrading things to each other. All of the thoughts and feelings they have about their partners are negative. I have to look for the positives. I have to find the good in the midst of all that anguish and begin to show it to the couples and shine a little light into their dark lives so that they can see that there is still love there. When they begin to see that there is some good, they are grateful for it. After that, things start to change for the better.
When you are grateful to your partner and for the role they play in making your life better, that creates an immense ripple effect in your life and everyone you come in contact with.
If you’re in a negative space, you have to make an intentional change. Every morning of every day you have to wake up and say to yourself that you will be grateful today. In every situation, you have to consciously look for the positives. If you do this, you will find them, I promise.
The more we are grateful for what we have, the more things we have to be grateful for. It may sound cliche’ but it’s the truth.
Show gratitude daily
It doesn’t happen overnight, but you can create an attitude of gratitude no matter what is going on in your life at this moment. We talk a lot in my Couples Expert blog and podcast about being grateful for small things. The main point is to show your gratitude on a consistent basis. Having good manners, saying thank you, writing notes and letters and reaching out in gratitude are great ways to do this. When was the last time you reached out to someone with a thank you note? This is a courtesy that has mostly been lost in our instant electronic society. It needs to be resurrected. Try it and see how much of an impact it has on the recipient.
Put a cookie in the mailbox for your mail carrier, thank your trashmen and those who provide services for you. It feels great! Turn your gratitude on at home by recognizing your partner’s contributions to your daily comfort and well-being. Thank your kids for doing a good job with chores or homework. Show gratitude for a home, food, a lifestyle or the extras that you and your partner work so hard to afford. See, you’re getting the idea now! Look for all the good things in your relationships with your partner, your parents, your friends. Reach out to your partner regularly and tell them, “ I appreciate you and all you bring to my life.” Be specific.
Gratitude helps you get through challenges
When things go wrong, and you have challenges (because you will), it is easier to bear and to look for that silver lining in the storm clouds of your life. I recently saw a news item about a couple in their 50s whose house burnt down in Northern California during the wildfires. The picture was of them smiling, laughing and dancing on the driveway of their burned out shell of a home. You may think,” How can they be so happy, they’ve lost literally everything !?” What I saw were two people who were living in gratitude. They couldn’t save their home, so they accepted that and were actively grateful that they’d come out unscathed and in one piece. Their gratitude was for life and the chance to go on living it together. I thought it was beautiful.
Not feeling it? Maybe this will help:
- Try to look around you right this moment and pick out 5 things you can see and touch. Tangible things that you’re happy are within your reach. Be thankful for these.
- Look at your partner the next time you are together and choose 3 things that make you grateful to be with that person. Qualities they have, special things they bring to your relationship that make you thankful. Say them out loud.
- Sit quietly alone in the evening and think about your day. Meditate on the good things that happened to you and be grateful for them.
- Think about the bad things that may have happened to you this week, and look for the positives in the midst of the difficulty.
- Start a journal. Record the things that you have to be thankful for right now this minute and do this every day. At the end of the week, go back and read what you’ve written. You’ll find yourself living in such a way that you are recognizing these gems on a daily basis so that you can remember to write them down.
- Start a gratitude jar. Set out a jar and some slips of paper. Write down the things you have to be grateful for and fold them into tiny notes and place them in the jar. At the end of the year, dump out the jar and read each piece of paper. You’ll find you had plenty of reasons to be grateful after all.
If you can do these things, you’re on your way to developing an attitude of gratitude. Practice this until it becomes a habit. It won’t be very long before you will begin to look for those good things, those gratitude moments even while in the midst of difficulties and challenges that you’re facing. This is truly a transformative practice that will impact you and your loved ones in a positive way from now until the end of your life.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
More by Stuart Fensterheim