With the holidays approaching, and Thanksgiving as soon as next week, the time of intentionally giving thanks is upon us. Being thankful, appreciating what you have, and expressing gratitude shouldn’t be reserved for the holiday season. It should be expressed everyday for a number of reasons. Keeping a gratitude journal alleviates symptoms of anxiety and depression by focusing the mind on positives. You’re likely to feel calmer and happier because that becomes the focus of your days, rather than the problems and issues.
Of course problems and issues will arise. That’s the story of life, but if you have a bank of happiness from expressing gratitude and recognizing the positive things you have going for you or around you, you’re more likely to not feel overwhelmed by those issues and actually think more calmly and clearly to resolve your own feelings and the problem.
Practicing gratitude is beneficial for adults and children. It can be difficult for a family to develop this practice, as it does not always feel natural in our current culture. We live in a world of instant gratification. A world in which patience is difficult, and down time is inclusive of scrolling social media or playing video games.
To initiate a feeling of gratitude among children and overall within your family, you must practice what you preach. Modeling giving thanks, identifying positives in a difficult situation, and verbalizing how you might breathe and look at the bright side are all ways to show your children exactly how to engage in a attitude of gratitude. The true secret though is to keep it up so that it becomes a normal habitual practice. In order to create a true attitude of gratitude, you must keep it up all year, not just during the holiday season.
4 Ways to Incorporate Daily Gratitude into Your Family
- Daily Gratitude Sharing: Create a time and place within your family where you identify the things that you were thankful for today. For many families, meal times and/or bed time is great time to do this. But don’t limit yourself! This can be done on car rides, bath times, before sitting down and watching a movie, etc. Sharing what everyone is grateful for is a positive conversation starter and can help children in learning about unique things they could be grateful for. It allows families to be open about things that might be difficult, but being able to still finding positives during their day. Encourage everyone to share different things that they are grateful for that day and to be specific as to why. You’ll have a bank of positive experiences to look back on and a great family motto.
- Gratitude Jar: You could also make a board with this. Once a week, day, month, or whatever works for your family, everyone puts a note in the jar about something they are most grateful for. Many people start in the month of November and then read the things they wrote on New Years eve. But like I said, if you want a true attitude of gratitude, this doesn’t just come once a year. Keep a jar or board the whole year and then look back at the end of the year and start again. A jar is a great way to keep the mystery alive and excitement for things at the end of the year, but a board offers a more visual representation and focus for some families.
- Gratitude Journal: Different from a jar or board, as this is often a more personal activity. Ideally, each person spends a few minutes writing out some of the things they feel grateful for. Everyone has their own decorated journal and it can be private or shared. For some people, this is an excellent expression for gratitude, while for others the idea of writing invokes feelings of resentment and annoyance. Adjust by making it a family journal and one person being a scribe. Allow younger children to draw pictures and illustrate almost like a book. Sharing aloud at dinner or bedtime can be ideal as well. Putting limits on such as only coming up with three good things can be helpful too.
- Giving Back/Volunteering: Once a month or more, allow one family member to choose a volunteer activity that everyone participates in. This could be as simple as cleaning up a park, writing letters to children in the hospital, or cooking a meal or treat for a neighbor. The act of giving back to people embraces the idea that you already have enough and are in a position to be able to give. Even simpler things such as surprising a family member by doing a chore you know they dread doing is a act of kindness that gives back and puts someone else’s well being and happiness at your own focus.
Have a wonderful holiday and remember to give back all year!