Grateful. How many of you know what it truly means to be grateful? Beyond the superficial ‘Thanks’ we award those who hand us a tissue or give us a plate of food at a restaurant. How many of you have really thought about what it means to feel gratitude toward another person? Specifically, your spouse or partner.
First, let’s think about gratitude. Raise of hands: who knows what it really means to be grateful? I mean, besides feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness. I don’t consider gratitude to be the same thing as being beholden to someone; you aren’t indebted because of an act of kindness. To me, gratitude means being able to take a minute to really reflect on an act someone else has done that has positively impacted you. These are gifts that come to you perhaps at a sacrifice on the part of another, but with an intentionality from the giver. Gratitude is something that you feel in your everyday life for something that is beyond what you might expect.
Why be grateful? Why put energy into caring about the act of another? Gratitude is good for your mental health. The grateful mindset predicts increases in how happy and satisfied with life you are, and increases your capacity for optimism. It also predicts lower levels of the toxic thoughts that prevent people from being happy – emotions like envy, possessiveness or materialism. People who regularly feel grateful often feel more energetic, enthused and attentive … gratitude helps you feel happy to be alive. Sounds corny, I know, but … isn’t that a great thing to be grateful for?
Feeling gratitude is also good for your physical health. helps reduce your levels of stress, and shifts your mindset to a having greater sleep, and doing more for one’s own health and self-care. Drops in blood pressure, and anxiety-inducing responses. Gratitude also seems to play a role in healing.
Gratitude helps you to foster a stronger connection to others and also improves your relationships with others, not just your family, but also with friends and acquaintances.
So, gratitude is quite literally good for you. How can we help you foster feelings of gratitude towards your family, especially your spouse/partner? Let’s break this down a bit. Do they share the workload? Do they listen to you when you’ve had a rough day? Do they do the grocery shopping, and take turns in cooking? Do they take a part in raising the kids? Partnerships are important. You don’t have to thank each other for every little thing you do; but acknowledging the effort each of you put in to make a happy, healthy home is important. I know I don’t say thank you to my hubby enough. He’s a great dad. Perhaps a bit louder and generates a LOT more laundry than I do, but he’s a great dad and a very caring husband. I’ve learned how much I appreciate all he does especially when he is not around (which is ironic, isn’t it?).
Beyond noting and being grateful for what your spouse/partner brings to your life, a few other suggestions for where you might focus your gratitude:
Think about the good in your life… by contemplating endings. That may sound really odd, but hear me out: contemplating endings is a poignant way to focus on what you currently have. Just like when your partner goes away for an extended period, or you move to a new home/country, these are also very significant changes in your home or comfort zone. The saying ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ is seated in deep truth. Giving something up for a while and then enjoying it again after an absence fosters a strong sense of gratitude.
Take the time to say thank you. Be grateful for people, not just things. If you just can’t say it in person, try to say it in a note. Do it every day. Not just a generic comment, either, but be specific. Thank your spouse/partner for how great they put together lunches or how nicely they clean up the bathroom after bathtime. Thank them for their animated story-telling efforts, or for how well they kept up with the bike while training your child to ride. Thank them for their amazing broccoli slaw that the kids ate up without a word.
Enjoy what beauty is around you. Being grateful for the sun shining on your face, the smell of cookies baking, the fresh feel of clean sheets at night on the bed … these are small moments of beauty gifted to you. Appreciate what they offer. Like that proverbial heady scent of a rose, they are a little piece of beauty there for you to enjoy. This is a perfect convergence of mindfulness and gratitude.
Give proper appreciate for gifts. A gift is something you are given; it is not something you are due. It is not a right to be claimed. Someone thought of you, someone took the time to get/find/purchase that gift for you, and they gave it, because they wanted to do something special for you. Say thank you.
The more gratitude you can show, the more gratitude you will feel. This is a skill that can be honed and amplified. Noticing the small things will help you move more toward a positive frame of mind; this is where positive family interactions come from.