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Change Your Relationships in Two Minutes A Day

A gratitude habit can create a seismic shift in the way you view the world. If you’re already listing the things you are grateful for each day, allow that habit to change the lives of others as well by taking the next step and expressng your gratitude for the ones you love. William Arthur Ward stated it well, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

There are many ways to express our gratitude to others. You might choose to simply tell them. Your habit might be, “When my spouse comes home from work I’ll tell her one reason I am thankful for her.” or “When I call my father on Sunday I’ll tell him one reason I appreciate him.”

Writing is another wonderful way of expressing gratitude to others, and can be as simple or complex as you’d like. For a while my habit was that after I dried off after a shower, I would text a family member and express my gratitude for them. A text, email or Facebook message can be a quick and easy way to reach out to a loved one.

In time my habit expanded to writing an actual note. I wanted to write a physical note to one person a day. This habit isn’t so tiny – it’s more of a bush, so I had to be sure to find a time in my day where my tiny habit would have room to grow, a time where I would typically have five minutes available to write. So my tiny habit was, “When I sit down at my desk for the first time each morning I will take out my notecards.”

There were some days when I didn’t actually write the note, when I pulled out my notecards but I didn’t have time because I had more pressing issues, but it would still trigger me to think of somebody and to think of my appreciation and gratitude for that person, and I found that it helped my mindset for the entire day. I was more appreciative of all of my family members and in general more aware.

Consider the following when expressing your gratitude:

  • Be spontaneous. This might come as a surprise in a blog about forming habits, but what I mean is to express gratitude at unexpected moments as well as expected ones. I sent my aunt a card after she organized our family reunion, but I have also sent cards simply because I was thinking of someone and wanted them to know.
  • Be specific. Thank them for their actions, but also explain why those actions meant so much to you. For example, you might say, “I wanted to thank you for the beautiful musical number you shared in church. My grandmother was a violinist and your song brought back fond memories of her.”
  • Be prepared. One way I prepared for success with this habit was by planting it in the right soil, where it would have room to grow. I also kept everything I needed on hand – my notecards and a pen were there in my desk when I sat down. I also created a second habit that supported the first; each Sunday when I sat at my desk I pulled out my cards and wrote down the names of the people I wanted to thank that week on the envelopes, so I had already decided who I wanted to write to each week and could begin thinking about what I would say to each person.

One reason I think this tiny habit is really important is that unfortunately, there are tragedies that happen in our lives and we don’t know if the individual is going to be around when we do finally decide to show our love and appreciation for them. I’ve had a number of loved ones who have taken unexpected exits, and I look back and I think, I wish I could have been able to tell them one last time how much I love them and how much I appreciate them.

Expressing your gratitude can have such a transformative effect on your life, your relationships, and the lives of others. My aunt still comments on how much that note meant to her. When you express gratitude to somebody else it creates a ripple effect for you and the person you have thanked. You’ll be more aware of the good things others bring to your life, and in turn they’ll be more aware as well, and more likely to see the positive things in their own lives.

Taking a Moment for Gratitude

In the United States, November is the month for focusing on gratitude as we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday. Celebrating an abundant fall harvest is a common practice in many cultures, and with good reason. There are many documented benefits to approaching your life with gratitude. Those who do:

  • Experience fewer aches and pains.
  • Exercise more often and are more physically fit.
  • Sleep more soundly. 
  • Expand their life expectancy by up to 7 years. 
  • Are more physically and mentally resilient.
  • Have reduced rates of depression.
  • Have greater empathy for others. 
  • Have increased self-esteem. 
  • Are more appreciative of others’ accomplishments. 
  • Have stronger and more satisfying relationships. 

Taking a moment to reflect on the positive can have far-reaching effects on many facets of our lives. As Eckhart Tolle stated, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”

Cultivating Gratitude

When you’re working to cultivate a habit of gratitude, it’s important to formulate a recipe tiny enough that you will feel capable of completing it even when your motivation is low. The simplest version might be: 

“When my head hits the pillow, I will think of something that I’m grateful for.” 

Consider, also, the timing of the habit. Beginning your day with gratitude can be a powerful way of adjusting your mindset so you are more aware and appreciative of the good things that happen as you go through your day. Gratitude at night is good for reflecting on your day and the positive things you’ve experienced, and can set the stage for contentment and restful sleep. 

Expanding Your Habit

In our next blog post we’ll explore some ways to take your internal gratitude habit and make it external. For now, here are some suggestions on ways you can make an internal habit more powerful. 

  1. Say it aloud. Thinking of something you are grateful for is an excellent start, and for some people it may be enough, but speaking a thought aloud makes it more concrete and more emotionally resonant. When I sit down to a meal, I will say one thing I am grateful for.
  2. Write it down. Like speaking the thought aloud, writing it down requires you to make the thought more defined. In addition, adding the physical movement of writing activates more of the brain and makes the thought more “sticky”. Writing also provides the added benefit of creating a log that you can look back on over time and reflect on the richness of your life. However, it does require a bit more time and available materials than a thought or spoken gratitude. When I get into bed, I will open my gratitude journal. 
  3. Make it specific. Consider why you are grateful for each person or thing. Instead of simply listing that you are thankful for your spouse, expand the thought by including that you are thankful for your spouse because he made your favorite dinner or because she always puts her phone down when you’re talking. If you are grateful for the things in your life, consider what those things allow you to do, be, accomplish or experience. For example, you might be grateful for your car because it allows you to get to work or for your new tennis shoes because they enable you to run without pain. 

Taking a moment to acknowledge the positive things in your life can color your entire day. When you choose to view your life through a lens of gratitude, you create a mindset that enables you to see the opportunity in a challenge and the many small blessings that are present in every day.