As humans, we have a tendency to spend too much time and energy focusing on the negative or what goes wrong in our life or in our relationships and not enough time or energy savoring the good things.
Gratitude is a positive emotion that we can cultivate to help us feel happier and more satisfied overall. As an extra benefit, when we share our gratitude with others, we help our relationships grow stronger and closer.
We can cultivate more gratitude through a regular gratitude practice such as keeping a gratitude journal, taking a few moments throughout the day to reflect on our blessings, or by using the Three Things exercise.
With the Three Things exercise, you write down three good things that have happened to you over the last day or the last week (you choose the frequency that works for you). Once you've identified the Three Things, make a note about why each of these things happened - what was your role in bringing them to fruition? Then, take a moment to reflect on these situations and really feel your appreciation for them, and for your role in the situation.
When we take the next step to express gratitude to others in a thoughtful, purposeful manner, we strengthen our relationship with them. Barbara Fredrickson wrote that the best thank yous shine the spotlight on the qualities of the person who did the good deed. Rather than just thanking them and telling them how much their action or gift helped us, she encourages us to take it a step further and convey that we see and appreciate not only the other person’s action, but also their good qualities.
Here is an example of how I used to write Thank You notes:
Sarah, thank you so much for that book. I’m a few chapters in and it’s already been really helpful to me on my journey. I can’t wait to read the rest of it.
Here is the same Thank You note, highlighting Sarah's good qualities.
Sarah, thank you so much for that book. I’m only a few chapters in and it’s already been really helpful to me on my journey. You are always so thoughtful and willing to give of yourself. You listen without judgment, see where I’m struggling and then follow through with a great resource. I am so grateful to have you in my life.
See the difference? Sarah now knows that I've observed her good qualities. I've labeled them and have provided an example.
How do you cultivate gratitude in your life? In what ways do you express gratitude to others?
My challenge to you for this week is to experiment with at least one of these gratitude practices. Choose one and allow yourself the time to fully experience it. Savor the goodness. I'd love to hear how it goes for you!
Frederickson, Barbara. Love 2.0: Creating Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection
Seligman, Martin. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being