Each night, a few minutes before going to bed, I expect to get a text from my love that simply says, “Gratitudes?”. I’ll send him a numbered list of three things from the day that I am grateful for, and I expect a list from him in return. It’s our way of closing out the day from afar and fostering gratitude for our current life.
We started sharing daily gratitudes in a season of our dating when life was weighing us down. Job stress was overflowing into negative attitudes, and as a generally cheerful and positive person, I had a hard time handling the negativity. Somewhat in exasperation I suggested we end our phone call with three things we were each grateful for from the day.
That simple suggestion has become a treasured daily ritual. It gives me a good chance at the end of a day to inventory the good moments. I am so often weighed down by only the challenges of the day grind; this ritual forces me to pause and give thanks for the gifts I’ve received throughout the day.
On a good day the gratitude may overflow and the list turns into four, five, or six things I want to share. On a bad day, my list can be as simple as having a warm bed, eating a good meal, and getting in a workout.
Psychologists often talk about the benefits of gratitude, like increasing wellbeing and lowering depression. Practicing gratitude has benefitted my own life in a number of ways.
1.) Better communication
On days when my boyfriend and I don’t get a chance to do more than text, I can communicate a bundle in that short list. Or on a day where our conversation was dominated by pressing matters of his day and I’m more on the listening side of the phone call, my gratitudes list ensures I have a chance to communicate three of the most important happenings of the day. Having a ritual that ensures we connect with each other on a more intimate level each day builds up the foundation of our relationship.
2.) A long-lasting relationship
You may have seen this article from Business Insider floating around earlier this month about how (spoiler alert) kindness and generosity are found to be scientific predictors of a long-lasting relationship. How exactly do I see kindness and generosity relating to the habit of sharing our daily gratitudes? When I have a more grateful approach to life, I start to see more and more the areas where others are being generous to me. Maybe it was a coworker offering to take part of a project because it is my busy season and she has a bit of time. Or it could be that I noticed that my boyfriend offered to do the dishes after we made dinner together, so that I could finish other work.
3.) A Deeper Appreciation of Life
When I pause to see the many blessings I have received, it pulls me to be increasingly present in the moment. A few weeks ago, on a picturesque fall morning, I was at a farmer’s market. The sun was shining, the air had a bit of a bite to it, and apples and winter squash were overflowing the market stalls. And I was grateful. The habit of naming what I’m thankful for at the end of the day also makes me more grateful throughout the day. Photographer Hailey Bartholomew had a similar experience when she began a year-long project which involved snapping a Polaroid of one thing she was grateful for each day. She says the practice of gratitude helped her to overcome depression and to live a more fulfilling life.
While this daily sharing of gratitudes has worked in my dating relationship for our mutual benefit—my boyfriend tells me he has a more positive outlook in general since we’ve started the practice–I don’t think this ritual needs to be limited to romantic relationships. A parent, roommate, or friend could be a great gratitude partner, too. Thankfulness doesn’t have to only be for Thanksgiving.