Gratitude In Relationships
This series of blog posts focuses on some of my reflections on the nine foundational attitudes of mindfulness and how they relate to interpersonal relationships. This week is an exploration of gratitude.
For me, gratitude is probably the most significant thing that I have learned since beginning to practice mindfulness. When we practice gratitude, we learn to appreciate what we already have, giving a sense of richness and abundance. We realise all the things that we take for granted and learn to take pleasure in the small things. This is something that I have certainly noticed in my own life, particularly in difficult times. I am increasingly able to notice beauty and simple acts of kindness, in the midst of the challenges of life. This doesn’t mean that everything is rosy. There will always be challenges and difficulties. But gratitude and appreciation can help us to gain perspective.
Gratitude can have a positive impact on our relationships. We learn to appreciate others rather than focusing on (and even pointing out) their faults. This can make us a lot nicer to be around! It can be easy to take our loved ones for granted, noticing the times when they have let us down but overlooking the countless times they have supported us and been kind to us. Sometimes we can believe that our gratitude goes without saying and yet it needs to be said – both for our benefit and for those around us. Looking back on my previous relationship I realise that I didn’t always verbalise my gratitude. In time I stopped even noticing what I had to be grateful for. I now make a point of noticing and thanking my loved ones for acts of kindness and generosity. In doing so I am noticing a deeper sense of connection. As a non-driver, I am really grateful to my partner and my colleague, for giving me lifts to work. It is easy to get used to this simple act of kindness and forget to appreciate it. My current practice is to try not to get too accustomed to getting lifts and stay appreciative.
In work recently, a colleague thanked us at the end of her working day and I was quite taken aback. I had forgotten how lovely this was. I had once had a practice at work of thanking colleagues each day and we had fallen out of the habit. We are so quick to tell our colleagues and employees when they have done something wrong, but we often forget to thank them when they have done something right, or simply to show our appreciation for their effort and presence. It is so important to feel appreciated and this means that we put in more effort and go the extra mile.
A sense of gratitude can also help us to gain perspective. When I feel hurt or irritated by the actions of somebody close to me, I find that if I surround that hurt with gratitude, then I am more willing to be vulnerable and share what I am struggling with, in a way that does not make either of us completely bad.
As with so many things, gratitude might not come naturally to a lot of us. Our inbuilt ‘negativity bias’ means that we naturally gravitate towards the negative, and if we are prone to rumination, we can easily blow this negative out of all proportion so that the positive is completely ignored. By actively practising gratitude, we can challenge this. We can practise gratitude meditations; we can actively make a point of saying thank you; we can even write down a list of things we are grateful for each day, particularly focusing on what we appreciate about others. Why not try developing a practice of gratitude and notice what happens…?
The next post of the series will look at acceptance.
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