With Thanksgiving coming up, the pressure to adopt an attitude of gratitude can be a little much—especially for singles. The holiday season from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day is like running the gauntlet if you’re unhappily partnerless. On top of that, opportunities for singles to mingle at holiday parties are mostly curtailed because of the pandemic.
However, there is a way to pull yourself through this season, and even out of unwanted singledom: by writing gratitude lists for every date you go on.
As someone who used to think gratitude lists were pointless and gratitude journals dumb, I get it. Why be grateful when in reality you’re miserable and binge-ing Nexflix shows? But then I started reading up on the neuroscience behind gratitude practices and changed my mind. Because that’s what these practices do: literally change your mind. Simply put, when you focus on the good you create or strengthen neural pathways that wire your brain for more positive experiences.
If this doesn’t feel easy to do, it’s not your fault. Our brains are hardwired to focus and dwell more on negative experiences (called the “negativity bias”) so we’re primed to get stuck in a neural rut, like after a bad date—or a string of them. By ruminating, complaining, or “venting” about your subpar dates, you’re only reinforcing negative neural pathways paved to… more singledom.
A non-scientific way to think about this is: are you attracted to negative, complain-y, and bitter people? Nope, nope, nope.
A few years ago, I started writing a list of appreciations after each and every date I went on. These lists went into a little silver book, my “silver lining” alternative to the little black book. Even when I knew my date wasn’t a match, I looked for the good in him. Here are some examples from my entries:
- “Aaron: picked a restaurant I’ve always wanted to try”
- “Jeremy: wasn’t afraid to express that he was looking to settle down and get married”
- “Karl: good kisser!”
For the more painful experiences of getting ghosted or rejected, I’d write: “x got out of the way so someone even better can come through.”
3 Reasons Why to Start a Gratitude Practice for Your Dates
Writing 5 appreciations or gratitudes for every date you go on isn’t about being a better person; it’s about improving your dating life in the following ways.
- You’ll Stop Ruining Perfectly Good Dates
While we’ve all been burned in the past, approaching dating from your negativity bias—like looking for “red flags” in your date—will absolutely ruin it. As someone who’s been on a number of first dates with men who were focused on sussing out whether I was crazy like their ex, I’m here to tell you not only is it obvious what you’re doing but it’s also a surefire way to succeed in making me just like every other failed online date you’ve been on. Catching actual red flags is important, of course, but if you can do so by taking the dating process slow rather than by putting your date on the edge and on defense.
2. You’ll Evoke the Best Out of Your Date
You can often bring out someone’s good qualities by how you show up. If your attitude is one of greater acceptance and positive regard, your dates will absolutely sense that and feel safer not only to be themselves but also their best selves. If you’ve been practicing gratitude for your dates you’ve been rewiring your brain to see more of the good in others, instead of projecting your past onto them, and your date will feel both more at ease with you and like you better.
3. You Won’t Give Up Before the Finish Line
When people give up on dating, it’s often because it’s making them unhappy. If you were happier during the dating process, wouldn’t you be less likely to throw in the towel? Think of your individual appreciations for your dates as building blocks forming a bridge to your person. Studies show that gratitude practice is associated with greater happiness. Also, non-empirically, haven’t you noticed that when you’re in high spirits you generally attract better opportunities?
Lastly, when I’ve struggled to let go of someone and move on, I write an extra-long list of appreciations for that man. It’s a way to give myself closure, especially in situations where I didn’t get any.
Having gratitude for dates, even the disappointing ones, isn’t an exercise in denial but a tool to change unhappy circumstances. This attitude of gratitude also serves your future relationship; in one study, expressing gratitude for your partner not only improves the relationship but also allows you to feel “more comfortable expressing concerns about the relationship.”
And yes, it also makes you a better person.