8 Simple, Powerful Ways to Cultivate Gratefulness in Your Family
How to teach your kids (and yourself) gratitude.
Now is the perfect time to teach your kids about gratitude. Here are 8 simple but powerful ways.
1. Say thank you to your kids:
The more they hear the people they look up to the most say thank you, the more likely they'll do the same.
You can thank your kids for almost anything:
“Thanks so much for clearing your plate!”
“You cleaned up your toy! Thanks! That makes clean up easier for everyone!”
“That hug made my day! Thanks!”
“Thanks for all those mushy kisses!”
2. Say thank you to your spouse:
We are consumed by performing daily tasks. It's nice to have someone show appreciation for the mundane. So say thank you to your spouse and let your kids overhear you, often.
During the pandemic when my husband was working from home, he had to deal with some tough Covid related stuff. I always knew he worked hard, but now I actually saw it. I made sure to say thank you to him for providing for our family and I tried to make a point of saying it in front of my kids.
3. Thank you notes:
At the risk of sounding old fashioned, there is nothing like a handwritten thank you note. They never go out of style. When your kids get gifts have them write simple thank you notes. Younger kids can color pictures and dictate their message (they are often very funny!). Grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends are delighted with this show of gratitude.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff:
It's a real effort for me not to nitpick and complain. I realize sweating the small stuff does nothing to cultivate gratefulness. So I make the conscious effort to flip it and focus on the positive instead. When I’ve stained my favorite shirt and I’ve forgotten that one item on my grocery list (ugh!), I try to think of what I am grateful for. I have laundry stain remover that might just do the trick or the grocery store is really just two minutes away.
5. Put God into the picture:
Everything happens for a reason. The next time you can’t find your phone, your cake flops, or you're stuck in traffic, take a minute to thank God that it’s nothing worse or to ask God for help.
Challenges, even minor ones, can be a vehicle for growth, allowing us to be thankful for the difficulties. This helps us assign a higher purpose to the frustrations of life and ultimately feel gratitude instead of annoyance.
6. Start the day off right:
Every morning, Jews say the following words when they wake up:
"Modeh Ani – I give thanks unto You, O living and eternal King, for having restored within me my soul, with mercy; great is Your trust."
We thank God for the start of a fresh new day. Ruchi Koval in her book, Conversations with God, recommends adding a personal reflection: “Specifically, I am grateful this morning for ________.”
This is a wonderful exercise to do with our children as well. When we wake them up in the morning, we can say Modeh Ani and ask them if they have anything that they are looking forward to that day, something for which they are grateful.
7. Point out the beauty around you:
We are surrounded by so much beauty – if you open your eyes and look. Focusing on the little things that can do wonders for exercising our gratitude muscles. The trees outside your kitchen window, your comfy rocking chair, the sun creating rainbows on your floor and your neighbor’s smiley baby. Make sure to point out what you're appreciating to your kids.
8. The science behind gratefulness:
Researchers at Indiana University studied a group of participants suffering from anxiety and depression. Half of the group were assigned a simple gratitude exercise – to write letters of thanks to people in their lives. Three months later all of the participants underwent brain scans.
During these brain scans the subjects participated in a gratitude task in which they were told a benefactor had given them a sum of money and were asked whether they'd like to donate a portion of the funds to charity as an expression of their gratitude. All those who decided to give away money showed a particular pattern of activity in their brains.
However, the participants who'd completed the gratitude task months earlier reported feeling more grateful two weeks after the task than members of the control group.
Researchers concluded that there were profound and long-lasting neural effects of acts and thoughts of gratefulness.
The more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts this mindset. You can strengthen your gratitude muscle. The more effort you put into feeling grateful the easier it will be to tap into those feelings spontaneously.
Photo Credit: Austin Pacheco, Unsplash.com