The Power of Gratitude
Gratitude journaling requires minimal effort, yet can have immense positive impacts on our lives. And it’s not just good for us as individuals; the benefits also extend to our partner and our overall relationship well-being.
What is gratitude journaling?
It’s really as simple as it sounds: writing down the things in life that you’re grateful for. It can be bigger, more general things, like being alive, having food to eat, your creativity or other personality traits, or the people you love. It can also be the seemingly small things that make up your day, like the weather, a warm cup of tea, a text from a friend, or a moment of connection with your partner. Gratitude journaling is a judgement-free zone, so whatever comes to mind as something you’re grateful for, it counts. It doesn’t have to be a long story; it can be as brief as a few words that capture what you’re thankful for today.
Let the good times roll
Numerous research studies, including those led by Robert Emmons, show all kinds of positive impacts from gratitude journaling. Greater Good Magazine writes about his work showing physical, psychological and social benefits, including:
Less pain and stronger immune system
More exercise and better sleep
More joy and optimism
Feeling more awake and alive
More helpful and forgiving
Feel less lonely
Those all sound pretty great, right? Especially that last one, because recent studies have shown loneliness to be a major public health risk akin to smoking. But just a few minutes of gratitude journaling a few days per week can drastically improve our lives. This doesn’t have to be a daily practice; in fact, gratitude journaling 1-3 days per week has shown to be more effective than doing it every day.
Dig a little deeper
Once we get into the habit of writing down a few things each day that we’re grateful for, we can start to think more about where these good things are coming from, and how we experience them. Are there people we can thank for the good things we experience, or is our gratitude directed more generally? Do we miss the good things while they’re happening, and only acknowledge them when we take the time to journal, or are we able to be present and experience the good things in the moment? Understanding more about our gratitude can help us cultivate the habit in our daily lives, and feel it more easily.
There’s room for everything
Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean we have to shut out any negative feelings we have. It’s important that we feel the full spectrum of our feelings, moving through whatever is present for us in a given moment. Rather than trying to use gratitude to block out our anger, fear, regret, and other negative feelings, gratitude can offer a balance. We can feel our pain, and experience gratitude, and both can be true and authentic. Though we might find that the more we do our gratitude journaling, the more positive energy and strength we have, and the easier it is to navigate our negative feelings and experiences. In fact, a 2008 research study showed that gratitude can directly reduce levels of stress and depression.
Simple doesn’t mean easy
Gratitude comes hand in hand with humility, recognizing that things outside of ourselves are offering and providing positive pieces of our lives. It requires us to recognize that we are not in full control of what happens around and to us, and that we are influenced by things outside of ourselves - which can be tough to accept for those of us who like to feel like we’re in charge. It can also be difficult to find gratitude if we’re having a particularly tough time. It can feel like we’re grasping at straws, or that whatever we come up with is superficial and for the sake of it. While gratitude journaling is most effective when you start with a motivation to improve your life, even without that motivation, try to think outside the box to find something, anything, that you can say “thank you” for. If you can find just one thing each day, your practice will grow, and you’ll start finding more and more opportunities for gratitude.
Being grateful together
With Coupleness, there is space for a gratitude journal within your daily tracker. It’s even called a “micro-journal” so it can be easy and quick to jot down a few thoughts. Your daily tracker is shared with your partner, which helps you deepen your understanding of each other, including how you are both feeling, and what you are both grateful for. When gratitude becomes a core part of your efforts in your relationship, you might find that you and your partner feel grateful for each other more and more. You will feel each other’s appreciation on a regular basis, strengthening your connection and uplifting your relationship.