What are two words that lead to a happy marriage? A recent study in the September issue of Personal Relationships found that couples who consistently say “thank you” were less affected by poor communication and other marital stressors. Researchers from the University of Georgia interviewed nearly 500 couples and found that the expression of gratitude was the most consistent predictor of marital quality superseding financial well-being and communication styles. Prior studies on gratitude have supported the above study results and suggest that gratitude is also beneficial for health and well-being. The posture of gratitude has also been found to reduce the self-focus inherent in materialism.
Another study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology explored the relationship between materialism and life satisfaction. Prior studies have shown that people who are more materialistic are generally less satisfied with life, but the authors from Baylor wondered if gratitude could buffer the negative effects of materialism. They concluded that those individuals who appreciated what they have are better able to maintain high levels of life satisfaction. In other words, being affluent isn’t enough to make you happy; you also need to be grateful. How do we work on being more grateful and appreciative of others?
Some keep a gratitude journal and write down daily experiences, things and/or people that they are grateful for. Others maintain a prayer journal and write down requests, but also praises when God answers prayers. Occasionally I will ask couples to write down what they love about each other or what qualities in their spouse they fell in love with. Sometimes we overlook the positive and instead only focus on the negative. Being grateful for what we have, who we have in our lives, and what we’ve accomplished provides a more positive perspective. Think about the ways you’ve been blessed and the ways you’ve blessed others. Work on recognizing and expressing gratitude with others so that it becomes more of a habit to be positive.