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Clear the backlog even if you cannot get in touch with the person (DW#655)

The practices that we have been discussing have two aspects:

1) the feeling of gratitude(which is an internal process for ourselves) and
2) the expressing of gratitudewhich is external and involves other people.

While it is extremely powerful to both feel and express gratitude, some of the people who show up in our list of people to thank may not be accessible to us at the present time. They may be out of touch, have passed on from this world or be entire groups of people such as teachers, speakers, coaches or volunteers at our places of worship.

In such situations, it is still worthwhile to engage in the first aspect of gratitude by recalling the kindnesses of such people, or groups of people, in detail. And then to write them out or to offer thanks to them in your imagination for the specific things that you are grateful for and appreciate about them.

One practice that I engage in regularly at the end of a busy season at our community centre is to recall the many many small things...

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Gratitude and trauma (DW#642)

Survivors of abuse and trauma have a complicated relationship with gratitude. When a person is trying to work through formerly repressed feelings about abuse or trauma in the past, gratitude can become a stumbling block.

One reason for this is that on the surface, survivors of abuse often do not have a problem with gratitude. They may comply and do gratitude practices but it may not be the path to healing that they are looking for and need.

Survivors of abuse and trauma often have a problem with feeling their feelings. Abuse can really mess up a person’s trust in themselves. They do not have confidence that their feelings are warranted, accepted or okay. On top of that, gratitude may have been used by abusers to further confuse the victim and destabilize their sense of reality.

Once the abuse is behind them and they are on a healing journey, they are often recommended to initiate a practice of gratitude by well meaning friends or counsellors. Sometimes, these suggestions can...

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When gratitude is not appropriate in relationships (DW#641)

Over the last little while, we spent considerable time talking about how practicing gratitude in relationships will improve relationship quality and satisfaction.

We now need to address an important caveat about gratitude in relationships.

All the research that we have mentioned is focused on understanding factors that promote the maintenance of healthy relationships or turning around relationships that have the potential of being healthy.

There are, however, some relationships that will not be helped by gratitude.

If there is physical or emotional abuse in a relationship, telling the victim to look for the positive or to feel grateful may further victimize the person.

It is true that no one is entirely evil. The reality is that even abusers may have some aspects of their personality which are positive. A person who is aggressive or violent may be materially generous (a "good provider"). A serial adulterer may be charming, hardworking or a good parent. Someone addicted to substances...

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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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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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The antidote to marriage failure (DW#630)

We have often talked about how important it is to be intentional in long term romantic relationships.

One of the easiest things to fall prey to in marriage is to begin to take each other for granted: to stop noticing all the positive things your spouse does and only pay attention when things are not quite how you like them to be. AND this is also how relationships begin to self-destruct.

On the other hand, an important way to keep your primary relationships fulfilling is to regularly appreciate your spouse and express that appreciation.

Research by Sara Algoe and her colleagues has found that grateful couples are more satisfied in their relationships and feel closer to each other. Other research has found that the more grateful couples are, they more likely they are to be in the same relationship over long term.

Experts say that the benefits of gratitude are maximized when you appreciate not just what your partner does, but also who they are as a person.

So for example, it is not...

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