“For many years, at great cost, I traveled through many countries, saw the high mountains, the oceans. The only things I did not see were the sparkling dewdrops in the grass just outside my door.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore
The single best thing you can do to instantly improve your relationship is to become an expert gratitude-giver! When you choose to regularly express gratitude, even when you don’t feel like it, you condition your brain to start noticing and taking in the good things in your life.
Over time, this changes your mood and sense of well-being and who doesn’t want to be with someone who feels great, who exudes happiness and well being? It’s contagious! The more automatic it becomes to express your gratitude and appreciation, the more positive you become and so on it goes. Happiness grows exponentially when you become a finder of the good.
I’m not talking about being like Pollyanna, being ungrounded in reality or having a false sense of reality. Rather, even in life’s difficulties, if we routinely rest our mind on good things and noticing the good in people around us, life becomes joyful and relationships become easier. We stop taking things personally and we build up our internal resources so we can let things go. We don’t take offense as easily and we let criticism, real or imagined, go over our heads.
Developing the habit of gratitude is also good for your health. Your immune system works optimally when you are not under stress. When you are generating a sense of appreciation and consciously noticing the good, the brain cannot be overwhelmed by stress and mindless chatter that hooks us into the negative stories. The experience then of developing a habit of experiencing ourselves differently in the world ultimately means we become more mindful and more conscious. People who are mindful also have a greater capacity for empathy. So, practicing developing a new habit like gratitude helps us transfer this skill into other areas. As the mind changes the brain changes. See Rick Hanson’s work on the brain to find out how the brain is “like Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive”.
It’s been a matter of survival: we have needed to remember the bad experiences like being chased by tigers so we can avoid having those experiences again. However, most of us don’t have those life and death experiences regularly. We don’t need to live on high alert nor do we need to pay more attention to the negative influences in our lives. Rather, we have to train ourselves to notice and take in the good.
So, imagine that rather than feeling irritated and critical about your partner for the dishes in the sink, the socks on the floor or whatever it may be, we choose instead to be grateful for the gift they are in our lives. We start to regularly pay attention and to notice the good they bring, the small and the not so small acts and gestures of love and kindness.