We often underestimate the power of a simple “thank you”. It’s easy to get caught up in our daily routines and personal issues and forget to acknowledge the things that others do for us, especially our romantic partners. But according to research conducted by relationship expert John Gottman, expressing gratitude can be a powerful tool in maintaining a healthy and happy relationship.
In his article, “The Power of Thank You”, Gottman explains that expressing gratitude to your partner can help to strengthen your bond, your communication skills and intimacy and create a more satisfying relationship and marriage. This is because expressing gratitude is a way of showing appreciation to your partner and acknowledging the efforts that your partner makes on your behalf.
Gottman offers several strategies for incorporating gratitude into your relationship, including:
Expressing gratitude regularly: Make a conscious effort to express gratitude to your partner on a regular basis, whether it’s for something small like doing the dishes or something more significant like supporting you through a difficult time.
Using “I” statements: When expressing gratitude, use “I” statements to show that you are personally grateful for your partner’s actions. For example, instead of saying “you’re the best partner ever”, say “I really appreciate everything you do for me”.
Being specific: When expressing gratitude, be specific about what you’re grateful for. This can help your partner to understand what actions or behaviors are most meaningful to you.
Incorporating gratitude into your life and daily routine: Make expressing gratitude a part of your daily routine, whether it’s through a quick text message, a note in your partner’s lunchbox, or a verbal expression of thanks before bed.
Imagine how you felt when someone was genuinely grateful for something you had done, how it made you feel, and how it motivated you to do better. It probably also helped you see what matters to that person, and how you could express additional gratitude.
Our brain tends to focus more on the negative so we have to intentionally help it see the positive. If we focus on the negative in ourselves or our partners, it is discouraging and it leads to doing and seeing more of the negative. By noticing and pointing out the positive it helps us feel more connected to our partners which in turn helps motivate them to do more of what we appreciate.
No one makes any changes worth noting when criticized, blamed, put down or judged. These types of interactions cause people to dig their heels in and double down rather than make any changes. When we shift the focus to what is already good, positive, and worthy of appreciation we make room for change.
Ways to show gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful emotion that can have numerous benefits for our psychological and emotional well-being. Expressing gratitude can help us to cultivate positive emotions, reduce stress, increase feelings of happiness and well-being, and improve our intimate relationships. Here are some ways to show gratitude:
Write a thank you note: A handwritten note is a thoughtful and personal way to express gratitude. Write a note to someone who has made a significant difference somewhere in your life and let them know how much you appreciate their actions.
Give a small gift: A small gift can be a meaningful way to express gratitude. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just something that shows you were thinking of the person and appreciate what they did.
Make a public acknowledgment: Publicly acknowledging someone’s efforts can be a powerful way to express gratitude. Whether it’s in a meeting or on social media, research shows that taking the time to acknowledge someone’s contributions can boost morale and strengthen relationships.
Pay it forward: When someone does something kind or helpful for you, consider paying it forward by doing something kind or helpful for someone else. This can help to spread positive feelings and increase feelings of gratitude and connection.
Express gratitude verbally: If someone has done a great job on a project or task, give them positive feedback. Let them know specifically what they did that impressed you and how their efforts have made a difference. Take the time to express your appreciation for the things that others do for you, and for the positive aspects of your life.
Keep a gratitude journal: Take a few minutes each day to write down things that you are grateful for. This can help to shift your focus towards the positive aspects of your life, lessen stress, depression and anxiety and increase feelings of happiness and well-being.
Practice gratitude meditation: Set aside some time each day to develop and practice a gratitude meditation. This may involve focusing on things that you are grateful for, or simply cultivating feelings of gratitude and appreciation.
Remember, expressing gratitude is an ongoing practice. Showing gratitude is a simple but powerful way to cultivate positive emotions, improve relationships with others, less anxiety and depression, and increase feelings of happiness and well-being. By expressing gratitude through acts of kindness, verbal expression, and daily reflection, we can cultivate a greater sense of appreciation and connection in our lives.
Maha Elias is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC), Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC), Comprehensive Family Mediator (FMC), and sexual health and trauma-informed marriage counselling and couples therapist with a counselling and couples therapy private practice in Victoria, British Columbia.