by Angela Dube, LMFT
This time of year is a great time to reflect on what we are grateful for. It has certainly been a challenging year and a half, and yet here we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving. Practicing gratitude has been shown to increase overall feelings of happiness and love. It’s easy to think about all the bad things, our brains our naturally wired to seek out the negative in life. But with practice we can make it easier to notice the small joys and increase our feelings of happiness. It can be a great skill to teach our children to build resiliency and positive attitudes. Here are some ways to cultivate gratitude within yourself and in your children.
Get in the habit of practicing gratitude for yourself on a daily basis. Take some time every day to reflect on the day. I like to do this before bed, and jot down 5-10 positive things that happened that day in a journal. When we think of gratitude we often think of the big things, like “I am grateful to have shelter and enough food to eat, family, etc.” However, I like to get into the small moments, the simple things that were part of my day that sparked a feeling of joy. For example, sometimes it’s as simple as a hug that I received from one of my children, or the satisfaction of a warm cup of coffee in the morning.
You can also do this with your children. I keep a journal on my dining room table and I ask my family at dinner time to share something they are grateful for, big, small, silly, it doesn’t matter. I write them all down and periodically review them. It’s a beautiful thing to reflect on past things we’ve come up with and laugh at the ridiculous things my 3 and 5 year olds' say.
I also like to practice this throughout the day by modeling it for my children. As I’ve gotten better at noticing the positives in life through my own gratitude practice, I share my thoughts as they arise. While walking around the neighborhood I point out beautiful flowers or express gratitude for the rain. I thank my husband for cooking dinner, and now my kids do too. I express gratitude for the things my kids do that I appreciate, from big things like helping out around the house or small things like just being fun to be around.
And bonus, I find that this works great for getting my kids to contribute to the household. When there is something that I want them to start doing or do more of, I express gratitude for something I want them to do as though they are already doing it. Such as, “I love that you two are so great about taking your plates to the counter, or helping clean up toys around the house.” They jump right up and do the thing I mentioned! I swear, it’s magic, and much more effective than nagging.
This holiday season I encourage you to take note of the things in your life that you are grateful for. Express gratitude for the positives in our lives, what it took for us to get here, the sacrifices that have been made by ourselves and others. Yes, things have been hard, and there have been good moments too. Let’s try to pay more attention to the positives than the negatives, and notice how this makes you feel.
Happy Holidays from CFCG.