Discover How Gratitude Can Improve Your Relationships

By Kelly Aluise

French author Marcel Proust said, “let us be grateful to the people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” This famous quote is more than good advice—research shows it could be life-changing.

According to science, people who have good social connections have greater happiness, fewer health problems and live longer.

Since positive relationships are key to living a happy, fulfilling life, it’s important to find ways to nurture and support those around you. Showing gratitude to others is one of the best ways to strengthen your relationships.

Everyone has the capacity to express the character strength of gratitude—and it’s something you can experience in everyday interactions, small or large. VIA’s Chief Science and Education Officer Dr. Ryan Niemiec describes it as “the transcendent feeling of thankfulness, the sense of having been given a gift by that person or event.” To use more gratitude in your relationships, look for the good in your daily interactions with others.

Character Strengths are Gifts

It’s easy to get in the habit of seeing strengths as ordinary instead of extraordinary. But the truth is, your loved ones are actively giving you gifts of their strengths all the time.

Want to boost your relationships? See other people’s character strengths as gifts to you.

When your spouse makes the bed, give verbal thanks for their self-regulation. If a friend calls or texts to check in, show gratitude for their love and kindness. Express gratefulness to your co-worker for their perspective when navigating a challenge.

This act of spotting and appreciating character strengths deepens your connection because you are showing that you value who they are as a person. In the Start with Strengths course, Dr. Ryan Niemiec offers more guidance on how to apply the Spot-Explain-Appreciate (SEA) Model to further strengthen good relationships and improve difficult ones.

A Simple Letter or Text Can Enhance Happiness

The strength of gratitude is strongly linked with greater life satisfaction, more meaning in life and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Research shows you can experience these benefits and strengthen your relationships by writing a gratitude letter to someone you are thankful for.

Think of someone who has had a positive influence on your life and write them a letter describing your feelings. You can choose to send or read the letter to the person, or not. The simple act of writing about your gratefulness helps clear your mind of negative thoughts and can improve your mental health.

To make this even more actionable, start small with text messages to your loved ones telling them why you are grateful for them. Make a habit of sending one text each week to a different person in your life to continually boost happiness.

Use Gratitude to Alleviate Relationship Struggles

Practicing gratitude helps to overcome adaptation/habituation and increases the meaning of good acts. It’s also beneficial when things aren’t going well in a relationship.

Next time you are facing a challenge with a difficult co-worker or an argument with a loved one, use gratitude to see the bigger picture. Maybe you don’t agree with your spouse’s decision to let the kids stay up past bedtime, but you can appreciate that they did it out of love to spend more time together. Focusing on gratitude helps ease resentment and temper anger.

Focus on Good Relationships for a Good Life

Research shows that gratitude is a character strength that can be boosted fairly easily, so it won’t take much to see and feel positive outcomes. Start small by showing appreciation to your loved ones first thing in the morning. As you move through the day, express gratitude to the people in your community.

Gratitude has a ripple effect — when you focus on the good, the good in your life grows. Look for ways other people make your life better and tell them. Then, watch how giving thanks can give you so much more.

Discover More Ways to Nurture and Boost Your Relationships

Research shows that relationships are one of the most important factors in building greater happiness. In our Start with Strengths course you'll learn how focusing on character strengths can help you create strong, positive connections with other people in your life. Learn strategies that you can start using today!

References

Niemiec, R. M., & McGrath, R. E. (2019). The power of character strengths: Appreciate and ignite your positive personality. Cincinnati, OH: VIA Institute on Character.

Niemiec, R. M. (2018). Character strengths interventions: A field-guide for practitioners. Boston: Hogrefe.

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410–421.