Many people minimize the power of gratitude. “Just be thankful.” Sounds too simplistic, right? Besides, encouraging an “attitude of gratitude” has become a platitude, just another cliché to say when things are tough. Still, gratitude is powerful. It’s not a cure-all, but it can help. In fact, gratitude may be what you need to reduce the stress in your marriage and family.
A study carried out at the Irish University of Maynooth suggests that gratitude will help you and your family react with less stress AND recover more quickly from stress. Specifically, gratitude predicted lower systolic blood pressure in response to a stress arousing experience in this study. A lower systolic blood pressure contributes to a lower risk of stroke or heart attack. In other words, if you want a family that manages stress more effectively and recovers more quickly from stressful events, make gratitude a daily practice in your family. If you’re not sure how to make gratitude a daily practice, here are three ideas to get you started.
- Start a gratitude photo album on your phone. Every day, take a picture of something for which you are grateful. In fact, take two or three photos a day of things for which you are grateful. Store them on your phone in an album entitled “Grateful.” When you’re feeling blue or stressed, flip through the photos. While you’re at it, randomly share a photo of gratitude with your family. Share your gratitude pics anytime you feel the urge. They will be your “random expressions of gratitude.”
- Engage in intentional expressions of gratitude as well. Intentionally watch for opportunities to express gratitude to your spouse, your children, and your parents. Obviously, you can thank them for the extraordinary things they do. However, make it a point to thank them for the mundane as well—like doing the laundry, cleaning their room, playing quietly, watching a movie with you, doing their chores. Don’t stop with your family. Thank the clerk at the checkout counter, your postal worker, the guy who holds the door for you, your waiter…. You get the idea. Offer thanks every chance you get. Not only will you enjoy the benefits of gratitude, you’ll be modeling a lifestyle of gratitude for your children as well.
- End the day with gratitude. Each evening take time to review your day and write down three things for which you are grateful. Push yourself to think of something different every day. It will be easy at first, but you’ll soon find yourself thinking more deeply to identify things for which you are grateful. You’ll begin to see a whole new world of gratitude open up as you dig deep to find those things for which you can give thanks.
As you and your family develop the practice of giving thanks, you’ll discover that family stress decreases. You’ll also learn that when stress does arise, you manage it better and recover more quickly. And that is something to be thankful for.