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5 Benefits of Being Thankful

Gratitude can be a great thing.

Have you ever wondered how to make life better? How can you be happier, healthier, or more fulfilled? Having an attitude of gratitude could be one answer. You may have heard this little catchphrase before. It’s possible you just rolled your eyes, too.

But does being thankful work?

What is gratitude anyway? 

Gratitude is the state of being thankful. It’s showing appreciation for what you have or receive. 

Dr. Robert Emmons, the gratitude guru, takes the definition further. He describes it using two key components:

  1. Gratitude is “an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts, and benefits we’ve received.”
  2. Gratitude is our recognition “that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves.”

So, how can being thankful benefit your life? I’m so glad you asked. 

Here are 5 benefits of gratitude:

1. Gratitude can help relieve stress.

We all deal with stress daily. Research has found that being grateful might keep our minds from getting so worked up worrying about things. When you’re in the middle of a stressful situation, refocusing on what you’re grateful for can calm the body and mind. This reduces the symptoms of stress.

When you choose gratitude over negativity, you also feel less emotionally charged. A sense of gratitude allows you to respond rather than react in the moment.

2. Gratitude can make you more positive.

According to psychologist Dr. Catherine Jackson, gratitude causes the brain to increase the production of dopamine and serotonin. 

Dopamine is the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. It’s associated with pleasure and reward. It contributes to focus, motivation, and happiness. 

Serotonin is a chemical that is considered a natural mood stabilizer. It helps reduce depression, regulate anxiety, heal wounds, and maintain bone health.

So, a grateful mind allows you to feel more positive emotions.


THE GRATITUDE CHALLENGE

EASY ACTIVITIES FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY TO CULTIVATE A MINDSET OF THANKFULNESS

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MAGIC OF THIS SEASON?

It’s easy to find yourself smack dab in the middle of the holiday season feeling frantic and totally unprepared for the flurry of meals, school programs, family get-togethers, and gift exchanges. It’s really hard to feel grateful when you’re STRESSED to the max. (Shocker, right?)

And you better believe your kids are picking up what you’re putting down. So if you want them to have a little gratitude for all that they have, a good place to start is intentionally expressing gratitude yourself.

This guide will help you and your whole family do just that. Download these free activities for all ages and start cultivating some gratitude magic!


3. Gratitude strengthens your relationships.

Relationships, whether romantic, family, or friends, can be full of disappointments. As we grow closer to others, we see their flaws. It can be easy to dwell on these. But an attitude of gratitude allows us to focus more on the good qualities. The more we focus on the good, the more positive attributes we’ll find. 

A series of 2012 studies found that gratitude also increases empathy and reduces aggression. Gratitude motivates people to express sensitivity and concern for others. Aggression, however, is just the opposite and is reduced among grateful people.

4. Gratitude can make you healthier.

The more grateful you are, the healthier you feel. Research supports that, too. Those who practice gratitude tend to have better psychological health. Grateful people also involve themselves in healthy activities and are more willing to seek help for health concerns. Additionally, grateful people are more likely to take care of themselves.

5. Gratitude reduces your risk of depression.

Regularly expressing gratitude can lead to fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. Being grateful reminds us that not everything is bad. There are positives that we can focus on. Gratitude can make you feel more motivated, which pushes you toward your goals and dreams. A sense of hope helps to protect against depression.

Approaching life with thankfulness can have positive effects across all aspects of life. It’s good for you, and it’s good for your relationships. Choosing to be thankful and expressing gratitude for what you have can be a wonderful thing. And in case you didn’t know, gratitude is contagious. Your attitude of gratitude can create a ripple effect throughout your friends and family.

Other resources:

5 Keys to Being Thankful in Marriage

DOWNLOAD: 30 Days of Gratitude and Love

Sources:

Why Gratitude Is Good | Greater Good

A Grateful Heart is a Nonviolent Heart: Cross-Sectional, Experience Sampling, Longitudinal, and Experimental Evidence – C. Nathan DeWall, Nathaniel M. Lambert, Richard S. Pond, Todd B. Kashdan, Frank D. Fincham, 2012

Examining the Pathways between Gratitude and Self-Rated Physical Health across Adulthood

The impact of gratitude on depression and anxiety: the mediating role of criticizing, attacking, and reassuring the self

5 Keys to Being Thankful in Marriage

Being grateful can boost your relationship.

Being thankful in marriage is packed with research-backed benefits! 

I know… this sounds like the beginning of a cheesy infomercial. But unlike many infomercials, this little factoid really is backed by science. 

  • Studies show that expressing gratitude for your spouse strengthens your marriage.
  • Being thankful is associated with increased long-term happiness in marriage.2
  • Being thankful can have a healing effect when there are rifts in the relationship.3
  • Thankfulness can help a person reframe negative experiences in a more positive light, giving a more hopeful outlook on their marriage.4
  • And get this: Showing and receiving gratitude is associated with more satisfying sex in marriage.5,6 

Thank goodness for being thankful! 

But it’s important to understand that gratitude in marriage is a lot like a muscle: You need to exercise it. You need to strengthen and flex your thankfulness to enjoy the full benefit. 

So how can you practice and strengthen thankfulness for a muscled-up marriage? Check out these keys to being thankful in marriage:

1. Journal your gratitude.

There is strong evidence that journaling what you are thankful for in your marriage improves overall well-being and marriage health.6 Try writing down three things you appreciate about your spouse daily. Look back on past journal entries for a dose of perspective and encouragement, especially on the tougher days.

2. Don’t just tell your spouse thank you. Let them know how they have helped you.


When you rub my shoulders, it helps me feel less anxious. Thank you! 


I sure appreciate you cooking dinner; it made this day a lot less hectic for me!


Telling your spouse specifically how they meet your needs has been shown to build a stronger relationship. It can also reinforce your spouse’s positive feelings about your marriage.

3. Keep a picture in your pocket.

Or on the visor. Or on your phone. (Wherever you’ll be reminded of your spouse regularly.) Gratitude is often prompted through our senses. Having a visual reminder of your spouse provides a constant nudge to count your marital blessings. 

4. Practice mindfulness.

Doing mindful exercises to practice being “in the moment” can promote thankfulness.9 Mindful breathing, walks, and meditation10 are just a few practices that can strengthen gratitude and contribute to a healthy marriage. 

5. Go through the motions (even when you aren’t feeling particularly thankful).

Robert A. Emmons, gratitude researcher at the University of California, Davis, explains that the motion of gratitude can trigger the emotion of gratitude. Prodding yourself to smile, say thank you, or write thank you notes to your spouse can help flex those thankfulness muscles. These actions help jumpstart more sincere feelings of gratitude. 

Just like any muscle, being thankful in your marriage is something you can stretch and strengthen. Otherwise, gratitude can atrophy and weaken. If you want to get your marital thankfulness in shape, try one of the keys above. You can thank me later! 

Sources

1Algoe, S. B. (2012). Find, remind, and bind: The functions of gratitude in everyday relationships. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(6), 455–469. 

2Gordon, C. L., Arnette, R. A. ., & Smith, R. E. (2011). Have you thanked your spouse today?: Felt and expressed gratitude among married couples. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(3), 339–343.

3Emmons, R. A., & Stern, R. (2013). Gratitude as a Psychotherapeutic Intervention. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(8), 846–855. 

4Lambert, N. M., Graham, S. M., Fincham, F. D., & Stillman, T. F. (2009). A changed perspective: How gratitude can affect sense of coherence through positive reframing. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(6), 461–470. 

5Brady, A. L. (2019). Examining the Association Between Gratitude and Sexual Communal Strength. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.

6Brady, A., Baker, L. R., Muise, A., & Impett, E. A. (2021). Gratitude Increases the Motivation to Fulfill a Partner’s Sexual Needs. Social Psychological & Personality Science, 12(2), 273–281.

7Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389. 

8Park, Y., Visserman, M. L., Sisson, N. M., Le, B. M., Stellar, J. E., & Impett, E. A. (2020). How can I thank you? Highlighting the benefactor’s responsiveness or costs when expressing gratitude. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. 

9Eyring, J. B., Leavitt, C. E., Allsop, D. B., & Clancy, T. J. (2021). Forgiveness and Gratitude: Links Between Couples’ Mindfulness and Sexual and Relational Satisfaction in New Cisgender Heterosexual Marriages. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 47(2), 147–161. 

10Shapiro, S. L., Schwartz, G. E. R., & Santerre, C. (2002). Meditation and positive psychology. In C. R. Snyder & S. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 632– 645). London, UK: Oxford University Press.

Why Generosity Matters in Your Marriage

Hint: It impacts how you feel about each other.

You know that couple. The one who has been married for many years and seems just as madly in love today as when they said, “I do.” You know who I’m talking about. Do you ever sit back and ask yourself how they do it? I do. If you could sit down and talk to them, you might be surprised if they told you that it takes more than love. That kind of love takes effort. It takes intentionality. But there is one other component present… generosity. 

What is generosity in marriage?

The National Marriage Project defines marital generosity as “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly.” It’s giving without expecting anything in return. Giving with no strings attached. Their survey of 1,365 married couples explains that generosity is small acts of kindness, displays of respect and affection, and a willingness to forgive each other’s faults.

This doesn’t mean we view marriage as 50/50. If you’re married, you know you have to give way more than 50%. You’re all in. 

It means that we give generously, not to receive. It’s giving without expectation. Maybe that means you go above and beyond with the household chores. When your spouse has a rough day or a work deadline, you take on more responsibility around the house. You don’t expect them to repay you. Your actions are genuinely rooted in love.

According to Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project, generosity in marriage is “signaling to your spouse that you know them, and are trying to do things for them that are consistent with your understanding of them.” 

Why generosity matters in marriage…

In an interview with the New York Times, Wilcox frames it this way: 

“In marriage, we are expected to do our fair share when it comes to housework, childcare and being faithful, but generosity is going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small acts of service and making an extra effort to be affectionate. Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.”

Researchers found that spouses who show generosity view their marriage as more satisfying. These spouses were the ones who gave, not received, the acts of kindness and appreciation. When we shower our spouse with selfless acts, we’re more satisfied with our relationship. 

Does this mean that more generous spouses have a happier, more satisfying marriage? Is the secret being more generous? Maybe. It sure doesn’t hurt! 

Researchers did find a correlation between generosity and marital satisfaction, but they couldn’t pinpoint which came first. Does being more generous lead to more satisfaction? Or is it the other way around? 

I can’t answer that question (and they couldn’t either), but both are a good thing. What matters is that these spouses genuinely love and care for each other.

So, where do you go from here? 

You can express radical generosity toward your spouse. You don’t have to shower them with gifts or a trip to a tropical island. (Although, who doesn’t love both of those?) You can start today with small gestures. In marriage, it’s the little things that mean the most. Make their coffee. Send a text to show your appreciation. Show genuine affection. Forgive them. 

Ready to get started? Ask your spouse to finish this phrase: “I feel loved when you…” Then find ways to be generous in making them feel more loved than ever.

Great articles to help you be more generous with your spouse:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude and how it impacts me and my relationships. Think for a minute about what it feels like when someone says to you, “Your smile made my day!” or “Thank you for checking in on me.” 

Several studies confirm the benefits of being grateful:

There’s something about not being taken for granted and feeling valued that makes people feel better. Gratitude warms your heart and can lift both the giver and the receiver out of despair. 

Gratitude impacts how we relate to others and how we feel about our circumstances. What you choose to focus on is where your focus remains. Concentrating on the negative when things are hard can overwhelm you and it teaches your brain to hone in on the worst. The alternative is to choose gratitude and find things you can appreciate during all the hard stuff going on in your life. 

A month or so into the pandemic, in the middle of “lockdown,” I received an unexpected package in the mail. It was a bubble machine from a friend that included a note saying how much she appreciated our friendship. She encouraged me to put that bubble machine to good use in our neighborhood to lift people’s spirits. Trust me when I tell you that bubble machine brought a lot of joy and laughter to people young and old.

Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming or expensive. It’s an intentional effort though to acknowledge what we are thankful for and a willingness to receive gratitude from others. 

Now that you know practicing gratitude strengthens your relationships, you may be looking for ways to incorporate thankfulness into your life on the regular. If so, you’ll be glad to know there are lots of ways you can show people how thankful you are.

Here are five ways to practice gratitude that will strengthen your relationships:

  • Tell someone how much you appreciate ______________. Thankfulness says, “You matter.” 
  • Write thank you notes to people you are close to, including your children, spouse, parents and friends who wouldn’t necessarily expect anything. 
  • Write a letter thanking someone who has deeply impacted your life. Tell them you appreciate the ways they have encouraged and supported you.
  • Be intentional about expressing appreciation out loud. Sometimes we think about how grateful we are on the inside, but we forget to verbally say it to the person. It can be something as simple as telling your neighbor (instead of just thinking it) how much you enjoy all the flowers blooming in their yard or telling a family member how much you appreciate them checking in on you during COVID-19.
  • Keep a gratitude journal focusing on what you are thankful for in different relationships in your life. This is especially great for those times when you are struggling and need a good reminder of all you can be thankful for.

Practicing gratitude isn’t always easy, and it may even seem hard to be thankful right now, but our relationships will be much stronger and happier when we express our thankfulness to the people in our lives. 

Photo by Nicholas Bartos on Unsplash

Thankfulness doesn’t have to be unique to Thanksgiving Day. Gratitude is key to any successful marriage, and when you show your spouse you’re thankful for them, they feel loved and appreciated. We all want to feel valued. This is foundational to a healthy, happy marriage. 

But how do I show my spouse gratitude?

Here are 7 ways to show your spouse you’re thankful for them:

1. Say it often.

Two words, “thank you,” carry so much weight. Tell your spouse how much you appreciate them. Tell them often. Show appreciation for the small things as well as the big. Look for creative ways to show your gratitude for them. Write it, text it, scream it from the rooftop.

2. Leave them notes.

Nothing shows appreciation like a note. There are tons of opportunities for creativity here. Go old school and mail them a note. Utilize technology and send them a text or video. Leave a note on the bathroom mirror if you leave before they do. Find fun places to hide a handwritten note… in their lunch, their car, their underwear drawer—you know, get creative. Be fun, be sincere, be you.

3. Discover what makes them feel appreciated.

We all receive love and appreciation in different ways. Be a student of your spouse. It’s fun and informative. My wife loves when I do the laundry, the dishes, or cook. I want to make sure she knows how much I appreciate her, so I am more than happy to show her using these ways. She knows I receive love through words of affirmation. I need to hear the appreciation verbally. When we can identify and utilize these methods, each of us feels valued. 

4. Give more than you take.

Marriage is a partnership. One way to show appreciation to your spouse is to look for ways to be a giver and give without expecting anything in return. My wife loves massages, and she loves it when I give her a massage with no expectations. It’s about showing gratitude and love. Do things for your spouse just because you care. I love to run, and one time my wife looked at me and said, “Babe, I’ll cut the yard, you go run.” That gesture screamed appreciation because she did something she doesn’t enjoy doing so I could do something I love to do. 

5. Take them out on a date… that they’ll appreciate.

Who doesn’t love a fun date? When you’re thinking about how to show your spouse gratitude, get creative with date ideas. What are they interested in? What do they love to do? Ask yourself these questions and plan a fun date to show them how much you appreciate them. 

6. Make sure they have time for themself.

We must take care of our marriage. To take care of our marriage, we have to take care of ourselves first. Show your spouse how much you appreciate them by making sure they take care of themselves. This may be a hobby, a sport, exercise, or hanging out with some friends. It’s essential to ensure both of you refill your tanks. You can only give what you have. If you are empty emotionally, you don’t have anything to share.

7. Download the “30 Days of Gratitude and Love” guide.

This guide will give you 30 simple, practical ways to demonstrate gratitude and love for your spouse.

Showing gratitude to your spouse can be a daily practice. It doesn’t have to be complicated either. Start with these seven ways and get creative. A thankful marriage is a healthy marriage. Making gratitude part of your daily practice helps guard against you believing you are the center of the universe or “drifting” into everything being all about you.