BY: PAOLO JOVENTINO
And just like that a 15-year friendship with a close friend was finished. We didn’t have a big fight. They didn’t backstab me or treat me horribly. But I knew it was time to move on because spending time speaking to them drained my energy whereas it energized me before. At first I felt it was because our friendship hit a plateau and it wasn’t growing, but I realized what it really was: I did not feel appreciated.
We talked about everything from our shared interests to recent events, but it came to a point where I grew weary. They criticized many of my ideas and picked apart things I enjoyed. Whenever I made a mistake they were quick to criticize, but whenever I did something great or gave them something, nary a thank you or a sign of gratitude.
It may seem obvious but showing gratitude goes a long way in maintaining relationships. A study from the University of Georgia indicated that couples who felt appreciated had better relationships. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the leading gratitude researcher also indicated in many studies the link between gratitude and an increase in happiness and decrease in depression.
I spoke with a family friend who had her fair share of marriage difficulties. Charito, a wife of 17 years and mother to three children, separated from Michael for over five years following an affair she had. Most recently they rekindled their relationship with a little help from marriage counsellors and their children.
“It just felt good for him to forgive me and to finally say ‘thank you’ after all that we’ve been through,” Charito said when asked about what changes in the relationship mended it.
Charito and Michael married in the fall of 1999 just a few months before the new millennium. They met in college and had a passionate love life. After having their children however, the pressures of the job and the amount of multitasking required to keep things in order led to them neglecting each other.
“It just gets tiring. You work outside the house and you work inside it. You have kids. You have your spouse. You have yourself. I got weak and I broke. Cheating on Michael wasn’t the smartest decision I made but it was hard to resist when someone else made you feel more loved and appreciated.”
However, according to Charito, thanking each other more frequently was one of the top suggestions the counsellor insisted upon. It didn’t seem like a lot but over the course of a year Charito felt the burden ease up. And there are studies to back up why signs of appreciation can make such a difference both mentally and physically.
Barbara Fredickson, author of Positivity and Love 2.0 specifies gratitude as paramount to building mental fortitude. “When adversity strikes, gratitude for the things that are going right in your life helps put tragedy into perspective.” It’s the same reason why a 2006 study published in the Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans who showed higher levels of gratitude experienced less Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Being thankful isn’t only directed towards others but towards ourselves. A 2014 study in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology indicated that gratitude increased an athlete’s self-esteem and thus helped them perform better. It goes the same with the average person. Being able to look into our lives and be thankful for things we usually take for granted can go a long way. According to this paper, life satisfaction scores go up with increased gratitude and so does your cardiac health, according to research from the American Psychological Association.
Furthermore, being grateful leads to happiness and happiness begets happiness. A 2014 study published in Emotions indicated showing a little bit of gratitude, even if it’s a simple “thank you,” attracts individuals to the person more. In the latest rankings that analyzed the best places to work in Canada, several of the top places were praised for having staff appreciation programs and fostering a working environment where employees were frequently recognized and thanked for their contributions.
Things didn’t quite work out with my friend, but I’ve reached out to them and told them how much I appreciated their friendship. Hopefully they too will realize the value of gratitude as should we all. In times where both news networks and social media feeds us negative stories of conflict, social injustices and calamities, looking towards brighter things can be found right in front of you. Be thankful.