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I want to share how things are going with the gratitude practice my friend and I initiated a few weeks ago. Since research shows that cultivating gratitude can increase happiness, my friend and I started texting each other every night. In the texts, we would each list three things we were grateful for that day.

(I wrote about the genesis and initiation of this idea on this blog post from early January 2021. The post explains how to start a texting gratitude practice with a friend.)

What happened in the case of my friend and I?

We had awesome results. We kept up the practice for weeks. We didn’t text each other gratitudes every day, but we did it most days. Within a week of beginning the practice, my friend reported that they started spontaneously feeling grateful during the day, in the moment. It took a bit longer for this to happen for me, but it did happen. Just this morning, for example, I heard a bird chirping, and I spontaneously thought how happy and grateful I was to hear such a beautiful sound.

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Then, after four weeks of regular gratitude texts, we stopped. It wasn’t something we agreed upon; we just both mutually, without communicating about it, stopped. Later we texted about the falling off, and each of us had good reasons for it. My friend’s pet was sick, and all of their focus was naturally on caring for the pet. I had started some new concussion exercises that left me too dizzy at night to text. However, and this is super awesome, we each admitted that even though we had not been texting each other, we had been doing the gratitude practice in our heads.

We agreed that doing the practice overtly by text for four weeks had allowed us to internalize the process of feeling grateful. Now we feel that we don’t necessarily need the crutch of texting anymore. We agreed that we would occasionally text each other gratitudes, but that it no longer feels necessary to do it every day. As long as we’re doing it in our heads, we’re reaping the benefits. On the other hand, if we, for some reason, stop doing it in our heads, we can always go back to the texting in order to boost ourselves back into the gratitude mindset.

So my main finding here is that, once you establish a pattern in your brain, that pattern can continue with less conscious effort on your part. This is consistent with what brain scientists have found.

(For more info on establishing brain habits, see my blog posts on the book Habits of a Happy Brain by Loretta Graziano Breuning.)

And I definitely feel happier than before! Naturally, there have been ups and downs in my mood over the past month. But overall, I can see that I have more moments of happiness and joy than previously. I think more about the good things in my life and less about the bad things. I have a more positive outlook overall, even though there have been tough times. So this gratitude thing is far from silly. It’s real. And it’s something I’m super grateful for.

What are you grateful for today?