Sharing Gratitude to Improve Your Relationship
The Importance of Gratitude in Marriage
Where does expressing gratitude show up on your to-do list? It’s not number one!? I get it. Thinking about how I am grateful everyday might seem kinda cheesy or maybe it feels like a hassle or a waste of time. I am here to help you change this perspective. There have been many studies linking gratitude with longevity of life and happiness. Harvard Health Medical School found that individuals who practiced gratitude and acknowledged things they were grateful for exhibited more characteristics of happiness.
What is the science behind this, you ask? Well, what do you know about the hormone oxytocin? Maybe you’ve heard the word before but not sure what it is; It’s commonly referred to as the “snuggle hormone” or “love hormone”. It’s released in our brains when we have positive interactions with others, especially our partner. And you guessed it, when we share appreciation and gratitude with our partner it triggers oxytocin release and reinforces our emotional connection.
Want to add ways of showing gratitude, upping that happiness factor and feel even more of that snuggle hormone? Here are four great places to start:
· Eye Contact (Psych Today)
· Bids for Connection (Gottman Article)
· Paying Attention
· Conflict Resolution
Think about what it’s like to gaze into your partner’s eyes. If you haven’t done that in a while, let’s change that too. So, here is a nice challenge for you. Think about something you are grateful for involving your partner. Get their attention, look them in the eye and tell them. This could sound like:
· I appreciate that you think about me on your way home from work, thank you for checking in
· Thanks for putting together those rocking chairs for our front porch, I’m gonna rock the shit outta those!
· Dinner was delicious thanks for taking the time to look up a recipe, buy the ingredients and make it happen, yummy
· It was nice not having to takeout the trash today, thanks for doing that
The eye gazing might feel strange at first but once you get used to it and feel the benefits of that oxytocin surge connecting the two of you together you’ll understand the importance and the difference it makes.
Bids for Connection
Bids for Connection, this is a John Gottman phrase describing how we reach for each other to feel more connected in little ways throughout each day. These can look like:
· What are your thoughts about the new neighbor?
· It looks like it might rain today.
· I had fun last night.
· What’s your day look like?
How does this play into gratitude you ask? Good question. Bids for connection are a way we can connect regularly, be in the moment with our partner and build moments of gratitude just for being with each other. This helps for those times when we are away from each other because we have these small consistent moments of connection when we are together. Noticing these bids for connection and reacting to them by engaging and connecting back is a great way to keep the love alive. These are reminders that we are there for each other even through the mundane everyday things that make up our lives. This, my friends, is truly the things to pay attention to and be grateful for.
Consciously listening to your partner and paying attention to what they are sharing with you or how they are reaching for you is another important player in gratitude. When we can pause and be present in the moment the connection is that much stronger. As we pause and share real gratitude for each other that’s when that loving hormone is released, you remember, oxytocin, the “cuddle” hormone. Once this is added to the mix it activates those feelings of love, appreciation and even warmth. Sometimes we can even feel it enter our body. You know that feeling, when you feel like your partner is really paying attention and interested in the stories you have to share. That warmth and love is what confirms our deeper connection to one another.
Ways to show we are paying attention to our partner include:
· Head nods along with important parts of the story
· Getting curious and asking clarifying questions
· Setting your phone aside
· Pausing or putting the TV on mute
· Small utterances to show you are listening like “uh huh” or “really” (only if done sincerely 😉)
Try it and see how it goes to really pause, be present in that conversation and express the gratitude for being the special one who gets to know all of this about each other’s lives. It’s special that we get to be that confidant for our partner. And that is truly something to be grateful for.
This feels weird. How do we show gratitude in times of conflict? Just think, if we are in a moment of conflict or disagreement we are most likely in a place of discomfort and worry about our connection. How can we flip this and invite oxytocin into the mix? Let’s pause, think of and maybe even express an appreciation for one another. Used in this moment it can offer a release to the tension. It can be a reminder of the positive aspects of our relationship. Think of sharing appreciations and gratitude as a tool to add to your belt for resolving those pesky conflicts.
As we take all of these opportunities to be more grateful in our relationship and sprinkle them into our day to day we can pay attention to our oxytocin levels rising, our connection growing and our snuggles becoming more snuggly. I encourage you, my friends, to think of your life now as a more grateful person and all the ways that gratitude can show up in your life. Here is a final list of what becoming a grateful person looks like:
· Enjoying what you already have
· Living in the moment
· Understanding the importance of life and how time passes so quickly
· Making the most of each day by finding things to be grateful for
· Appreciating the simpler things in life
· Seeing beauty all around and taking time to marvel in it
· Acknowledging the abundance of what we have
· Appreciating others and what they bring to life
· Seeing the uniqueness, we all bring to the world
· Knowing the importance of daily appreciations and gratitude
I hope you have a better understanding of the powerful tool that is gratitude, how you can incorporate it into your life and your relationship and truly live a more fulfilling life.
Cheers to holding hands during long walks on the beach and may the gratitude last as long as the sand clings to the carpet of your floorboards.
Until next time,