Fostering Gratitude Beyond Thanksgiving—How We Do It

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.

Gratitudes screenshot
Sharing daily gratitudes has become an important part of closing our day together, even though we are apart

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

Jenn, grateful after a run.
Jenn, grateful after a run.

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.

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