All relationships need positive energy in order to thrive. This energy can come from a variety of places and one that is always available is that provided by gratitude and appreciation.
In our couple relationship we have focused on this for the last couple of years and it has made a huge difference on many levels.
Gratitude is an inner experience when I bring my focus onto something I’m enjoying. It is about what I notice and how I allow it to energise and uplift me.
To be honest, this is not something that comes easily to me. I’m partly a product of my upbringing, schooling and early work experiences which did not develop this mindset. I rather noticed things I didn’t like and wanted to change, or just didn’t notice much at all and so missed out experiencing life more fully.
Developing gratitude, for me, was about bringing back a sense of wonder, humility and joy. I want to fully experience life and notice the ways in which I am connected to the web of interrelationships and how the actions of others sustain and nurture me.
This starts with myself and those closest to me. I have developed meditative practices I use to start my day which are about exactly this – bringing me into a state of gratitude. By moving my body I feel grateful for the life in me and by meditating I bring to mind the things Mona does I feel gratitude for.
I started this shift about 18 months ago and it has helped me become more relaxed, positive and enjoyable to be around.
In Robert A. Emmons book ‘Thanks: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier’, he writes about a famous long term study of Catholic Nuns who, on joining their order, were requested to write an autobiography. The writings that showed positive emotional content (such as gratitude) was strongly correlated with how long the Nuns lived. In other words … if you experience gratitude you will likely live longer.
Why not stop reading right now, take a piece of paper and write down as many things you can that you are grateful for. Pick one and take a moment to remember it. How did this make you life more wonderful? What did it nurture in you? Breathe it in. Stay with it for a moment. Savour it.
If gratitude is the way you bring energy to yourself, expressing it as appreciation towards your partner brings positive energy to your relationship. I suggest you develop a habit out of this.
Mona and I have tried several ways to create this habit and the one that has lasted longest is to use WhatsApp to write daily 5 appreciations of the other (plus 2 self-appreciations). This is part of our morning practice and it is always easy to find 5 things to write about. Reading what Mona writes to me is always a pleasure as it shows those things Mona notices and enjoys.
It has created a foundation of goodwill that enables us to solve difficulties more easily, deepen trust in each other and enjoy life together more.
So what are you grateful for and how would you like to express this to your partner? Consider telling them:
- What they did
- How you feel about it
- In what way did this contribute to your well-being
If you are not used to it then you may find it a bit awkward at first to change your patterns of communication. Examine your blockages and push over them. Here are some common ones:
- He knows I appreciate this, so why should I tell him?
- She doesn’t hear compliments easily and gets embarrassed
- He won’t trust what I say and think I’m trying to manipulate him
- I feel foolish saying this
- If I tell her this, she may think I’m overlooking all the crappy things she does.
These may all be true. Authentic appreciation expressed without any expectation will overcome all of these – once you get used to it.
What I have noticed is that it takes time to change communication patterns. So if compliments in the past have been insincere attempts to manipulate or just not something you regularly do, then they will surely seem strange at first. I suggest going slow and telling your partner that you want to start noticing more what they do that you enjoy and you would like to tell them this.
When you are transparent and vulnerable I guarantee that bringing more appreciation into your life will improve it for the better.