“It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” ― David Steindl-Rast
Daily expressions of deeply felt gratitude is a common experience among happy, healthy families. Like any other good habit, learning to feel and express gratitude takes practice. Fortunately, even before you’re great at being thankful, practicing gratitude will affect the happiness and success of every family member. To build your gratitude habit, adopt some of the following practices:
1. See the Sunrise – Starting your day with a quiet moment of reflection centers both your body and mind. Before your day gets away from you, imagine the people and things that are gifts in your life. Activating your brain with what’s so great about parenting, you are better prepared to greet the inevitable “Mommmmmmm, where are my cleats, flash cards, homework I forgot to do?” with appreciation and patience.
2. Express and model gratitude – Albert Einstein once said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.” This means you. Declare your gratitude as it happens—often and out loud to whomever will hear it. There’s plenty to notice: Healthy kids, secure homes, great teachers, a cup of coffee, the driver who stopped so you could cross the street, and the trash that was taken out before you asked. It’s all a gift. Showing appreciation builds and encourages our friends and family. It also reminds them of the gifts in their own lives.
3. Make creative fun ways to show gratitude in your home – Whether you have toddlers or teens, there are wonderful ways for children to learn to visually express gratitude.
• Try a family gratitude journal. Each person in the family is asked to share one good thing at dinner which is then added to the journal.
• Fill a jar or bowl with tags, leaves, or stones.
• The family fridge or a whiteboard are excellent places to display our joy at the gifts. Place post-its at kid level to note things as they happen.
You will find this exercise will quickly build on itself.
4. Make time to get out together – Walk out that door! Throw caution to the wind! The benefit of 30 minutes–as a family–outdoors far outweighs dirty dishes in the sink or the un-mowed lawn. Call out to your gang to put down the electronics, come out of your bedroom, and walk away from the clothes hamper. Instead, walk together to the park. Jump on your bikes and let the kids be the guides. Get an ice cream. Make up a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Talk, share, ask questions, connect.
Being truly present is a gift. When we give quality time to our kids we are showing them love. Be grateful for them. They will be grateful for you (even if they don’t always say so).