As we look forward to the new year, lots of us are making resolutions, setting goals, planning for the coming months. Most of our colleagues in the marriage education field are posting articles about setting relationship goals – an excellent idea, but we’d like to propose something different.
It has been well established that gratitude is a powerful way to amplify the positive elements in your life. We’ve written about it many times, even published a little ebook (here) with nifty activities to make the theory real in your life and in your marriage.
The practice of gratitude is transformative. In fact, gratitude is proving to be so powerful, that there are case studies demonstrating recovery from clinical depression with the practice of simple gratitude rituals.
Gratitude works because it changes the way we perceive our circumstances. And when practised intentionally in a relationship, it changes the way we perceive our spouse. It reorientates our focus away from the disappointments and deficits in our life (or in each other) towards the blessings. It builds our emotional resilience because it directs our attention to what is good and life-giving, thus amplifying its effect, rather than staying fixated on that which drags us down and often can’t change.
Google ‘gratitude’ and you’ll quickly discover volumes of research and articles on the benefits of this simple mind-shift practice.
So far, nothing different or original in that. But what if, instead of (or in addition to) your simple New Year goal setting you did some gratitude planting. Here’s the idea.
Each week, or more often if you like, make a record of one positive in your marriage or family life. It might be a lovely family celebration, a romantic evening, a spiritual encounter or a memorable nature moment together. Make a record and set it aside to be revisited in the new year.
It’s a bit like creating a gratitude time capsule where you stockpile your gratitude moments ready to harvest in the future. You could reap them all at once on New Year’s Eve or your wedding anniversary. Or reap them in small doses revisiting a memory each week.
Revisiting these moments helps us stay in love. When we revisit memories, the emotions that we attach to them are brought into our present conscious awareness. Gratitude planting can ease tension and conflict in a relationship. By reaping our positive memories, we can brighten our perception of our present relationship.
Get a bit creative in how you plant your gratitude moments – make sure it’s a practice that works well for you. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Take a photo and give it a caption that expresses the sentiment. Collect the photos in a phone or printed album.
- Use a journal to record in words or drawings your gratitude moments.
- Create a calendar on your phone, or use a printed calendar, to record your gratitude moments.
- Pin mementos like movie tickets, pressed flowers, cards or photos to a pin board.
- Record your moments on index cards or popsicle sticks and store them in a box or jar.
- Use dry erase markers or chalk pens to record your gratitude moments on a window or mirror. Snap a pic before you erase it for the next one.
It doesn’t really matter how you record your gratitude moments. The important thing is to establish the habit. And if you do it every day, or even every week, storing them for a later harvest, you’ll reap the benefits twice.