April is here and I’m loving the longer evenings. The fact that it’s light when I go to pick up my daughter from pre-school after work and still when we sit down for dinner together is just lovely! I’m really grateful to the darker months as the contrast makes me appreciate the light so much more! This is one reason why I adore having proper seasons!
Feeling grateful and lucky are such positive emotions, don’t you agree?
And they really make a difference to our happiness and life satisfaction on a bigger scale than in just the moment when you notice something you’re thankful for.
The major gratitude researcher, Dr Robert A Emmons, called gratitude ‘the hidden factor in happiness’. He found that grateful people experience reduced stress and depression whilst enjoying higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality and optimism. So, by practising grateful thinking you can reduce your stress levels and take control of your happiness levels.
Because all these thankful moments add up to hours, days, months and your reality!
Importantly, grateful people are less focused on the internal, and more on the interpersonal. They define their success less in terms of materialism and more by the quality of their relationships.
And people glow in gratitude. Saying thank you makes the other person happy and will strengthen the emotional bond. Gratitude feeds gratitude – so the chances are that we will glow in the reciprocal gratitude before long. With lots of positive emotions associated with feeling appreciated, feeling close to someone and feeling lucky (rather than entitled)!
I’d like to share a short story about a woman I worked with a few years ago. Louise is a competent, friendly and bright woman who found ways to demonstrate the power of gratitude beautifully.
When we started to work together, Louise was struggling in her marriage and the disharmony in her house was causing her a lot of angst and sleepless nights. She expressed serious disappointment in her husband Peter’s shortcomings. For seemingly very good reasons too! She had a list as long as her arm. When their young child woke at night, she always had to get up. Peter claimed he always called for mummy. When she came home late from work, everyone was starving at home because Peter waited for her arrival rather than cook something for the family.
Louise habitually spoke about Peter in language that was full of criticism and bitterness. But then, Louise allowed herself to open her mind and explore the various ways in which she may be contributing to the relationship dynamics. This allowed her to look at solutions and options, away from the painful place where she’d been stuck – of discontentment and frustrations.
One way in which she managed to make a real difference was to start deliberately looking for the things Peter did right. When he did help out. When he made her laugh. When he was a great dad to their child. Not only did she start to take notice (and she was pleasantly surprised how much more there was to notice than she’d realised when only focusing on his shortcomings) but she started to deliberately acknowledge it to Peter also. Both in private and in front of their son.
A big turning point was when she asked Peter to cook a meal. In the past, she’d resent having to ask him, and may have muttered something along the lines of ‘about blinking time too’ (or something ruder!) when the dinner was served. This time she sat down, smelt the lovely aroma and smiled at her husband saying a heartfelt thank you.
Over time Louise noticed how Peter would start to volunteer more as his efforts were recognised rather than criticised or overlooked, and even their son would turn to him more as his mum’s gratitude of his dad’s efforts and role in the family was starting to rub off on him too. Now it wasn’t just mummy who was called for at night!
So let’s move your attention to yourself and your life. Where could increased gratitude benefit you and those around you? Listen to yourself and think of options where you could say thank you, smile and look for the reasons you’re lucky or fortunate. This isn’t about denying that there are unfairness and ills around at times, but it involves encouraging more of what we want to have and experience rather what we don’t want. Send out ripples and who knows how far they’ll reach, and in what ways they’ll be returned.
Hopefully you and the people around you will soon glow in gratitude as well as sunshine this spring!