By Jay Feitlinger, a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Arizona.
When you’re trying to balance work and family, it’s natural to have the occasional bad day—or maybe days. Unfortunately, those difficult days can string together and impact your relationships and health.
Stress causes irritability and short tempers, often directed to the people you love. And that probably means that it really isn’t them, it’s you! Stress can also lead to headaches, fatigue, chest pain, muscle tension and other physical issues. In a few words, stress sucks. And, as any entrepreneur knows, there’s no shortage of stress. Figuring out how to deal with stress is very important to your health and your family.
One way to counteract a stressful day, whether it was rough at work or challenging with the kids, is by using gratitude. Research shows a connection between gratitude and well-being, and an active gratitude practice can cultivate positive feelings, enhance empathy and improve self-esteem.
Here are a few ways to practice gratitude on your own and with your family, and to use that grateful attitude to manage stress.
Keep a Journal
Make it a priority to spend five minutes every day writing down everything for which you feel grateful. If that feels like too much, start by focusing on good things that happened that day—like good weather or a fun lunch at work—or jot down things you feel grateful for every day: your family, your job, your house, your health and so on. That’s the trick: letting the “so on” become a reminder of everything that’s going right in your life and trying not to sweat the small stuff.
Hold a Family Gratitude Meeting
Get together with your spouse and children before bed or at the dinner table and talk about the best parts of the day. Ask everyone to share what they are grateful for. It’s human nature to focus on the negative. In fact, there are studies about the “negativity bias.” Successful people focus more on what’s going right than they do on what’s going badly.
When that difficult email arrives in your inbox or your child throws a tantrum, pause before you get frustrated. Look around and notice every little thing you find pleasing. Say “thank you” to each one: Thank you, normally well-behaved child; thank you, clients who need me.
Let yourself go non-stop for as long as you can, or set a timer so you keep at it for five minutes. It doesn’t matter how silly it feels. Get rolling, and notice how easy it is to find things to appreciate. If you’re feeling really stuck, take yourself outside and notice the sun shining, the birds chirping, children’s laughter (don’t stress about the subsequent mischief) and hone in on all of the little things that combine to make a wonderful life.
Say Thank You… and Mean It
Sometimes, we throw around the words “thank you” because we know it’s what we’re supposed to say when someone serves our lunch or drops off a report. Has it become an automated response in your vocabulary without much feeling or emotion attached to it? Let’s change that. When you get an opportunity to thank someone for what they’ve done for you, pause long enough to feel the gratitude, look the person in the eye, and say, “thank you.” The person will definitely notice the difference, and the cycle of gratitude will continue.
How do you practice gratitude in your life?
The Entrepreneurs’ Organization is celebrating gratitude and all its benefits! Check out more articles about the value of practicing gratitude on our Inc. blog channel!