An Education in Gratitude How practicing gratitude can lead to positive recognition and appreciation in your marriage. BY WENDY STRGAR
When you begin to express your feelings of gratitude toward your spouse, it can begin to improve your marriage.
“ Although this seems like stating the obvious, when we don’t feel grateful inside we are hard pressed to offer it to others.”
"To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude." ~Albert Schweitzer
As a concept and way of living, gratitude is always one of the first concepts taught in positive psychology texts and has, for centuries, been called the greatest of virtues and the parent of all the others. A dear friend of mine once shared with me that the more she practiced gratitude daily, the more her life became increasingly abundant in ways that continued to amaze her and even her husband.
The negative thoughts that deflect us from gratitude run deep, especially when it comes to a marriage. Identifying and rooting out hidden attachments that may harbor resentment toward your spouse takes time. Most of us are unaware of the poisonous thinking that undermines our abilities to thrive in both life and our relationships. Tragically, this often explains much of a relationship’s failure. We are often plagued with a sense of loss or misled by a sense of entitlement, both of which prevent us from witnessing and feeling grateful for all of the goodness and love that surrounds us.
With loss and entitlement hides an even deeper sense of worthlessness, which manifests into disappointment in those around us or, more frequently, an utter lack of recognition for how other people actually "show up" for us. This in turn creates the vicious cycle where, instead of appreciating and recognizing the people we love, we undermine the goodness intended for us, and indirectly, the people we love best. Although this seems like stating the obvious, when we don’t feel grateful inside we are hard pressed to offer it to others.
Creating a grateful heart begins with recognizing and replacing the internal messages that keep you from receiving. Creating a willingness to be curious or lean toward self-compassion and self-respect is often enough to move you toward an experience of gratitude. Remember that focusing our attention toward what we choose to cultivate is the most powerful use of the mind’s eye; our attention is sufficient to making big changes. What we focus on multiplies and gratitude multiplies faster than most felt experiences.
An Exercise In Gratitude
An easy exercise to focus the mind is to make a running list of brief grateful moments. Many people have been very successful with what is known as a "gratitude journal" for this purpose. A recent study demonstrated that the practice of noticing and documenting your grateful thoughts were associated with better health and greater optimism. Also, people who recorded their gratitude made more progress toward reaching their goals. This might explain why people who record their grateful moments are more likely to be alert, enthusiastic and attentive. Practicing gratitude raises your overall energy level in both your body and your mind.
I can vouch for the results. The more work I did to build my own inner experience of gratitude, the more I was able to recognize and express gratitude for the many ways that I am loved. In turn, the more I expressed my thanks, the more that my kids, my husband and even my employees kept offering more love. What we want most in life is to be recognized and appreciated. Educating yourself in the ways of gratitude will show you how.
Wendy Strgar, founder and CEO of Good Clean Love, is a loveologist who writes and lectures on Making Love Sustainable, a green philosophy of relationships which teaches the importance of valuing the renewable resources of love, intimacy and family. In her new book, "Love that Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy," she tackles the challenging issues of sustaining relationships and healthy intimacy with an authentic and disarming style and simple yet innovative advice. It has been called "the essential guide for relationships." The book is available on ebook. Wendy has been married for 27 years to her husband, a psychiatrist, and lives with their four children ages 13-23 in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.