Fostering Gratitude

My daughter’s favorite phrase lately seems to be, “I want I want I want…” and then she fills in the blank with whatever she happens to want in that particular moment. We’ve been working on asking nicely, which she does beautifully when prompted. And, with Thanksgiving approaching I’ve been thinking about the relationship between desire and gratitude.

In my experience, desire is somewhat uncomfortable and exciting and if my desire goes unfulfilled it can reach a point of frenzy. Gratitude on the other hand is calming, heart centered, and incredibly fulfilling in and of itself.

So, when I find myself stuck in a cycle of desire, I can often find a peaceful way out by consciously practicing gratitude. And I deeply want Julia to develop this useful skill.

For the next couple of weeks when she starts in with her refrain, “I want I want I want…” I think I’ll respond by sharing something I’m grateful for, instead of prompting her to ask nicely. “I’m so grateful we get to spend this time together!” or “I’m glad we have lovely healthy food to eat.” And then I’ll ask, “What are you grateful for?”

Sure, we’ll practice this on Thanksgiving, but why not start early and continue through the end of the month? In fact, why take a break from gratitude at all?

There are bunches of studies from positive psychology and happiness research that show that gratitude increases quality of life. Here’s a list of some peer reviewed studies from 2006-2011 if you’re interested in learning more about the current research.

The point is that gratitude and appreciation are emotions that benefit us and the people around us. And what’s the best way to teach this wonderful skill to our children? Why, to practice it regularly ourselves, of course!

How do you practice gratitude on a daily and weekly basis? Do you have rituals around food, like saying grace? Do you recount favorite moments of each day at bedtime? Do you have family meeting where each person gets a chance to appreciate the other members of the family?

If none of these sound familiar, maybe it’s time to implement a gratitude practice into your life! Even something as simple as keeping a gratitude journal that you write in daily can improve your happiness and wellbeing. And even if you don’t formally adopt a practice WITH the kids, your own daily practice will still positively impact your family.

The holidays are a wonderful time to practice being grateful for what we have, and they’re also a good time to give to others. Sometimes I find that it’s easier to be grateful for the abundance in my life when I spend time with people who are less fortunate. It’s very easy to take things for granted when everyone around us has things like hot running water and cars to drive.

But when we volunteer at a local soup kitchen, it feels really good to give back AND it reminds us how fortunate we are. Really, having hot running water and a roof over our heads is quite a miracle.

So, what are you most grateful for today? And how might you implement a gratitude practice with your kids? Or do you already have one that you’d like to share? I love hearing from you!

Have a wonderful week, Shelly

Groove dancer
Groove dancer

There is a cool gratitude app for iPhone that we do at bed time together :)