Gratitude is the quality of being appreciative and thankful for what we have in our lives. It’s more than saying thank you. It’s an emotionally tied, and sometimes deep-rooted appreciation for something or someone.
Being grateful and giving thanks is one of the most powerful things you can practice. Feelings of gratitude strengthen our bonds with other people and nurture our individual mental health. Making gratitude a daily practice can actually transform your brain for positivity and joy. When we feel happy, we are more at peace, less reactive and less resistant to change and uncertainty. Furthermore, expressing gratitude for life’s blessing only tends to bring us more to be grateful for.
That being said, gratitude isn’t something that comes natural to most. In fact, us humans are hardwired to be negative. As a trait of human survival, we are designed to see the negative in our experiences and circumstances: our ancestors who anticipated attacks, bad weather, and other negative possibilities were the ones who had a better chance at survival. It is up to us to make the choice to be grateful, to transform the brain for infinite possibilities.
If we invest time in to feelings of fear, frustration and hatred, we’ll see ourselves, others and the world as scary, frustrating and hateful. The more and more we focus on the bad, it becomes harder and harder to see the good. But if we CHOOSE to focus on the good within different situations, social interactions and experiences, we can start to see the world through a different lens. It’s not that the bad and scary disappear, but we’ve made a conscious choice to see the good and therefore don’t become overly stressed or mentally occupied about the bad.
How this applies to your romantic relationships.
Expressing gratitude is really a skill. This skill is easier to practice with strangers than it is our valued relationships, particularly the romantic ones. Our spouses are the people we share our deepest thoughts with. We tend to be more emotionally tied to them over time. But as time goes on, we also start to take them for granted. We grow accustomed to having them around and forget all the good qualities as to why we chose them in the first place. Throw children into the mix and see the challenges increase. There are just that many more responsibilities that are at risk of getting taken for granted.
Studies show that consistent expressions of gratitude by couples positively correlate to long-term relationship satisfaction and joy. When we focus on what our partner is doing well, there is less room to become fixated on what he or she isn’t doing. When we express gratitude for our spouse it provides fuel for the relationship. It motivates us and helps us connect. Likewise, when we feel gratitude from our spouse, we start to feel valued, and therefore more connected to them as well.
We can’t control how other people experience life. We can only control ourselves and hope that how we act wears off on the people around us. The people that we’re able to influence the most are our spouses. When we focus on positivity, love and gratitude, our spouses will unknowingly be influenced to do the same. So take initiative – don’t wait for your partner to make the first move. Focus on what you have, not on what’s missing, and practice gratitude each day.
By Erica Matechuk RYT 200