Instead of overpriced chocolate, wilting flowers, or terrible restaurant food on Valentines day, why not give your partner something really special? Gratitude. And I don't mean a small "thank you"; I'm talking about keeping and sharing a gratitude journal for the month.
Do you know what a gratitude journal is? Let me explain just in case you don't. Each day you write something you are grateful for - that's it! Here's a simple format:
Write three things you are grateful for each day-
- Something about yourself
- Something about your partner or your relationship
- Something else
The things you write don't have to be long- a few words or a sentence will suffice.
Easy, right? Then why does it seem the clients and couples who get this for a homework assignment have trouble doing it consistently?
Sometimes I think it is because people are wedded to their negative thinking. Being negative is so familiar that to be grateful, which is positive, is uncomfortable. Or maybe they believe being grateful is about ego and they don't want to have a "big ego." Or maybe they make the journal too difficult.
Let me address the last one first: making the journal too hard. When you write something you are grateful for it doesn't have to be earth shatteringly deep or long. You can write something simple. For example yesterday I wrote "I'm grateful for heat on these really cold days and nights." You can be grateful for your your hair, a kind word, your comfy bed, the sunshine, your ability to walk/run/jog, your dog, etc. You can be grateful for your partner's smile, quirky humor, intelligence, the good idea they shared, the way they uncomplainingly head to work every day, how long they've stuck with you, or anything.
Be careful, though, even the simplest thing to be grateful for might be deeper than you think. I once treated a woman who had almost paralyzed herself through addiction to alcohol. She spent a long time in the hospital because she has lost the use of her limbs and had to redevelop motor skills. One day in group we were discussing gratitude and she piped in. "Today I am grateful I now have the fine motor skills to turn on my washing machine." Isn't that a doozy?
What about the familiar negative thinking? Well, if you think your life is just right, you don't have to worry about this one, but if you have been told (or think) you are often negative and complaining, then a gratitude journal is for you. Why? Because it begins to teach your brain to think differently. You are retraining yourself to be more positive or at least neutral and not negative all the time. Gratitude opens your eyes to positives and makes them more familiar. And as many gurus have said, change your thinking and you change your life. A gratitude journal is a simple change you can make to start improving your life and your relationship.
And what if you are worried thinking positive this way will give you a big head/ego? Then make sure a good percentage of the things you are grateful for are not about you particularly. Look at your partner and what you are grateful for with him/her. Look at your life in general, what are you thankful for. Pay attention to others and the world, what can you appreciate there? But make sure you are recognizing the things in yourself you are grateful for too. Many people find appreciating themselves most difficult.
One tip: Write in your journal each day at the same time. For example write immediately before bed to review the day. Or write first thing in the morning when you wake up to start the day on a positive note. Just pick a time and stick to it so you are more likely to journal.
Then, if you want to truly make February something special, share what you are grateful for in your partner to your partner! Make sure he or she knows what you love, like, and appreciate. Your gratitude journal will be a powerful mover and shaker in your relationship.
A month of gratitude, a month of positives, a month of simple sharing will do more to bring you closer than jewelry, flowers, chocolate, teddy bears, or dinners.
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