Gratitude has become a popular theme for blogs and hashtags, and this is a good thing. A gratitude practice is where we take time to reflect on all of the things we are grateful for, either by having a quiet moment, writing them down in a journal, or simply meditating. Feeling into gratitude is not only good for our bodies and our minds, it’s also a healthy exercise that can help to reinforce and strengthen our relationships. But when practicing gratitude in relationships, it’s not just the quiet thought that counts.
Gratitude is a beautiful practice because it can help us to recognize and acknowledge the good, but in order to receive its full benefits, we can’t just feel it —we have to express it, too. So, how do we practice gratitude in our relationships with others?
Whether it be a romantic partnership, friendship, or a family member, I rounded up some tips and tricks from leaders across health, wellness, and media. Here’s how they do it….
I Love You Because…
When you share your love for someone, Andrew Horn (Founder of Tribute, Junto and What’s the Big Idea podcast) suggests sharing that entire sentiment with them.
Andrew says that when we add a descriptor to our statement of affection it impacts the recipient more deeply, “It shows them we’re not just saying it out of habit, that we really mean it and the sentiment will be more deeply felt and last longer.”
The Power of the Prompt
Andrew also offers up a few prompts to make it easy to celebrate people with gratitude.
“Every birthday, graduation or work anniversary is a perfect moment to tell someone why you appreciate them...all it takes is a conversation catalyst to offer a prompt that makes it easier.”
What is your favorite thing about…
What do you love about…
What is your favorite memory with…
“Simply telling someone to, “Say something about Jackie for her birthday” makes it challenging to express appreciation and gratitude.”, says Horn.
“‘What is your favorite thing about Jackie’” plants an answer in your mind. It also sets the precedent for positive peer pressure and everyone knowing that they’re going to answer the same question,” he explains.
So stop the party, drop a prompt, and easily invite in some gratitude for the person you want to celebrate.
Do It Together
Caleb Spaulding and Levina Li, the co-founders of A Sex Journal and the creators of A Sex Journal for Couples, found that journaling about gratitude made a huge impact on their lives as individuals, so they brought that concept into their shared life as a couple.
"Reflecting together and expressing gratitude with each other has been the foundation for us to build an incredible relationship," Levina says. "Journaling about our experiences is a way for us to practice being mindful. Sharing a journal has helped us develop a superpower of being able to communicate through anything," Caleb explains.
They suggest keeping a shared journal, and building a habit of expressing gratitude in every entry.
Keep A List and Keep It Fresh
Gratitude journaling works because over time it changes the way we look at situations we are in.
Teddy Droseros, founder of the non-profit Grateful Peoples (which has donated over 10,000 gratitude journals) asks, “If tomorrow you woke up with only the things you are consciously grateful for in the present moment, what would they be?” He suggests keeping an ongoing list in a journal.
“Just writing “I am grateful for my partner” day after day might be true, but it doesn’t push your brain to think of some fresh grateful moments.” In relationships, Teddy suggests focusing this question to aspects of the partner, friend, or loved one.
Share a Quiet Moment
Creating a meditation practice has many benefits, but is also a great way to dip into the present moment, to notice all there is to be grateful for inside of it. Sitting together during a gratitude meditation like the one in the INSCAPE app is a great way to develop gratitude using no words at all.
Plan a Death Dinner
Why would you want to talk about death over dinner? In comparing people to flowers, Dr Jordana Jacobs, clinical psychologist & expert on the relationship between love and death, says, “We want to believe we will never wilt or die, yet this belief so often breeds complacency & boredom, arguably the opposite of gratitude. As such, my recommendation to people, both patients and otherwise, who want to come into contact with deep gratitude is to remember that everyone is like a flower; when you realize your time with the people you love is limited, anger, resentment, wishing they would change, or perhaps even worse, feelings of indifference, often melt away. What remains is that which has been dying (for lack of a better word) to break through, but has been there all along - love, acceptance, and gratitude that you get to share this precious time together.”
Check out Death over Dinner, a series of #deathdinners created as an invitation and a simple set of tools to help families and friends address the basic human fact that we are all, at some point, going to die.
Keep A Reminder Around
Dr. Jordana Jacobs also suggest picking a Momento Mori object or a talisman that reminds you of impermanence, and placing it somewhere you’ll see it often. “This can help you accept death and thus, begin to experience more love and gratitude on a regular basis.” she says. If death isn’t quite yet your bag, try choosing an object that simply reminds you to practice gratitude when you see it, --like a sticky note on your front door to remind you take a moment together with friends, family, or partners before leaving the house.
Bring It To the Bedroom
Carmina Philippe, co-founder of Camera Ready (with her husband Quddus), has a sweet pillow-talk practice. “I brought a gratitude practice into our marriage and it consists of Quddus & I—no matter what type of day we had—asking as soon as our heads hit the pillow “What are you grateful for?” But it is very specific to what we are grateful for about one another.”
C: “I’m grateful for your kindness for how you have so much drive and determination. Your lips, your sexiness, your willingness to call me out on my shit!”
Q: “Thank you baby, I’m grateful for how kind and loving you are, how you are always one step ahead, how authentic you are, how fun and sexy you are, and how much passion you bring to everything”
C: “Thank you baby.” KISS and sweet dreams
Bottom line? If someone does something right, go ahead and make a big deal about it. As Andrew Horn shared, “If you don't have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” At Tribute, they realized that the statement, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.” has exponentially more impact if you take out the two “don’ts.”Expressing gratitude actually helps us to feel into our own appreciation of people and things, which is why it can be so powerful in strengthening our bonds in relationships with family, friends and partners. Andrew also explains that, “When we share our appreciation with someone, that person is more likely to share gratitude with someone in their direct, and even indirect social circles. So sharing your gratitude is literally creating a never-ending “gratitude loop.” By sharing gratitude inside our relationships, we have the power to create a ripple effect that reaches far beyond the singular person we are expressing to.