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Pushing gratitude on someone who is experiencing depression (DW#640)

We are discussing how forcing gratitude on others may not work and may cause people to be the opposite of grateful. It especially may not work with someone who is experiencing moderate to severe depression.

Research suggests that gratitude exercises may trigger the "inner critic" in individuals experiencing anxiety or depression.

When a person is experiencing depression, by definition they are not able to look on the bright side or find things that are positive in their lives. And being asked to find things that are positive may make their depressive feelings worse.

In a recent study, completed in 2017, the researchers found that individuals with symptoms of depression sometimes felt indebted, guilty, or "like a failure" when they were not able to find something to be grateful for. In other words, being told to practice gratitude worsened their emotional state and added other negative emotions to those they were already feeling.

Others in the study who were able to find something to...

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Asking others to be grateful can trigger social comparison (DW#639)

In this day and age, it is easier than ever to compare our lives to others. While comparison may indeed be the thief of joy (as expressed by Theodore Roosevelt) ceasing comparison is much easier said than done.

When we are comparing our lives to others, we sometimes get told to remind ourselves how lucky we are compared to others. This is true, of course. Despite whatever challenges we may be experiencing at the moment, if we have a roof over our heads, food to eat and security of body and soul, we are indeed more blessed than many.

The trouble is that when others tell us how lucky weare it can actually trigger social comparisons. Instead of comparing ourselves to those who have it worse, as they suggest, our mind starts comparing our situation to others who have it better than us.

And of course, we can find PLENTY of "evidence" on social media for those who appear to have it much better than us. Their lives, at least the part of their lives that are presented on social media,...

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Don’t be a gratitude pest (DW#638)

For the last several posts, we have mentioned several studies that support the benefits of a deliberate gratitude practice. But like other powerful interventions for increasing well-being, the practice of gratitude is complicated. We need to have a balanced view of it and recognize that while practicing gratitude for ourselves can bring about much positive change, pushing it on others may do the opposite.

Firstly, many people do not like others to tell them what to do. [Some in fact will do the opposite of what they are told to, just to prove a point . . . ] They specially cringe when they are trying to express dissatisfaction or negative feelings to us and we come up with "helpful" suggestions to make them feel better.

The suggestions to be grateful are usually in the form of:
"look on the bright side"
"consider how lucky they are"
"well at least . . . ."
"it could have been much worse . . . "
"you should be grateful that . . . "

When people hear such suggestions in the midst of an...

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7 ways gratitude improves relationships (DW#637)

Over the last few days, we have been discussing the role of gratitude in relationships.

Here is a summary of the 7 ways gratitude improves relationships

1)Gratitude is the key to feeling satisfied in your marriage [DW#630]
2)Gratitude creates the cycle of positivity and generosity [DW#631]
3)Gratitude prevents negative comparisons [DW#632]
4)Gratitude helps protect your marriage from the negative effects of communicating badly during conflict [DW#633]
5)Gratitude improves communication outside of conflict [DW#634]
6)Gratitude protects your relationship from the impact of life stressors [DW#635]
7)Gratitude empowers you by shifting the focus on things that you can control, on giving rather than getting [DW#636]

Which one did you find most surprising?

shifts your focus from getting to giving – thereby increasing your sense of empowerment – when you focus on what you can do instead of what you deserve from others.

 

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Gratitude shifts your focus from getting to giving (DW#636)

One of the great challenges of the modern mindset is that we are focused on what we believe we ‘deserve’. We are looking out for our own best interests and making sure that we are not taken advantage of. That we get what we think we are ‘owed’.

Now this kind of thinking may work in the stock market, but it doesn’t really work that well in a marriage.

In relationships, being aware of our rights and noticing how the other is falling short in delivering those rights is guaranteed to make us unhappy. Despite this, social media is always reminding us that we need to find someone who will love and appreciate us for who we are. That we ‘deserve’ this love.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it puts someone else in charge of our happiness. Only when they deliver on our expectations can we be at peace.

The mindset of gratitude on the other hand, is relational. It shifts our focus from ourselves to one another. Gratitude invites us to...

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Protect your relationship from external stressors (DW#635)

The stress of life often has a negative impact on our relationships. This is why relationships are more likely to struggle when there is financial hardship, job insecurity, poverty, immigration or sickness in the family.

A research study from the University of Georgia done a few years ago suggests that gratitude in the midst of life’s challenges can protect marriages from the negative effects of such life challenges.

The researchers in this study were particularly interested to find out whether perceiving gratitude from one’s spouse could protect couples from the damage that challenges external to the relationship, specifically economic ones, can wreak on a marriage.

The results showed that spousal gratitude was the most important predictor of marital quality, regardless of the couple’s levels of financial strain, or other external stressors on the marriage.

Interestingly, although conflict did increase during times of stress, this conflict was not associated with...

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A simple way to improve communication (DW#634)

Yesterday we talked about how gratitude helps when you mess up communication during conflict.

Today let us look at some evidence that practicing gratitude can actually help improve communication overall.

A study by Amie Gordon, a psychologist from U.C. Berkeley, has found that "highly appreciative" couples tend to communicate much better in relationships.

While talking to each other, these spouses leaned in, made eye contact, and responded thoughtfully to what the other was saying. In other words, they made it clear that they were listening to and digesting what their spouse said, showing that they valued their spouse’s opinion. Appreciative couples were also more likely to use touch and physical encouragement such as a pat or hand holding to encourage the other to speak more and express themselves.

From the above it appears that appreciating and valuing your spouse includes valuing what they have to say and it makes sense that this mindset would greatly improve your listening...

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Protect your marriage from the negative effects of conflict (DW#633)

Let’s be honest. No matter how many communication skills we learn and practice, it is rather challenging to actually use these skills when we are in the midst of conflict with our spouses.

When we are in the midst of an argument, we get triggered and often forget what we have learnt and practiced. We end up saying things which can hurt the other and end up damaging our relationship over time.

The good news is that practicing gratitude in our relationships can protect our relationships from the effects of conflict.

In a study by Allen Barton (which we shall look at again in a couple of days), he found that spouses who showed poor communication patterns during conflict but reported high levels of gratitude from their partner did not seem less committed to the marriage or more prone to divorce.

"As long as they still felt appreciated by their spouse," said Barton, "their levels of marital stability were similar as those couples with more positive communication patterns."

In other...

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Keeping your eye on your own grass (DW#632)

A sure way to destroy your relationship is to start noticing how the grass seems greener on the other side . . . . if you know what I mean.

Expressing gratitude for what you have counteracts this tendency and inhibits comparing your loved ones to others.

If you are genuinely thankful and appreciative for the positive qualities that your spouse does have, rather than focusing on what they lack, you are less likely to pay attention to, or envy the qualities that your friend’s spouse appears to have.

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How does gratitude help couples? (DW#631)

Experts try to explain the link between gratitude & appreciation and marriage success by suggesting that gratitude can help relationships thrive by promoting a cycle of generosity. When one person is grateful, it is likely to prompt both spouses to think and act in ways that help them signal gratitude to each other and promote a desire to hold onto their relationships.

Here is how this cycle works:

When you feel more grateful –> You want to hold onto your relationship
Moments of gratitude help people recognize the value in their partners and a valuable partner is a partner worth holding onto. A number of studies have found that on days when people feel more appreciative of their partners than typical, they also report increased feelings of commitment to their relationships. And the benefits of gratitude are not just in daily life – the more grateful people are at the beginning of the study, the more committed they are nine months later. So it seems that feelings of...

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