After years in the family lab (aka—my home and family) and conducting research (my kids say I “experiment” with them, but I really don’t “experiment”…I just try different things) on the many factors involved in family happiness (learning from my multiple mistakes), I have finally discovered a miracle cure for many family ails. That’s right, a single practice that can increase family energy and enhance optimism. It will also increase the social connections among family members and decrease conflict. This single practice can even build happiness while decreasing depression, envy, greed, and materialism. Even more, research has shown this practice to help people sleep more soundly, take better care of themselves, and resist viral infections better. In children, research has shown that engaging in this family panacea leads to better grades, fewer complaints of headaches and stomach aches, and better relationships with family and friends. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? However, I have experienced the effectiveness of this attitude in action in my own life and family. Maybe you have already figured out what I’m talking about…gratitude. That’s right: gratitude can do all this for you and your family (read more here or here). So, follow this simple 3-step prescription to build gratitude into your family life.
· Model gratitude in your daily life. Thank your children and spouse for things they do. Thank your neighbors. Make it a point to thank the family cook, the person who washes the clothes, and the one who took out the garbage…. Thank the checkout clerks when you shop and the wait-staff when you eat out. Model an attitude of gratitude for your family to see.
· Create a gratitude journal or a gratitude wall. Each night before bed, let each family member list three things for which they are grateful. List them in a family gratitude journal or write them on strips of paper to build your gratitude wall. If you do not like the idea of a journal or a gratitude wall, use your imagination to create a gratitude bank, a gratitude flower garden (on the fridge), or a gratitude house. Whatever you choose, take the opportunity for each family member to share what has made them grateful each day.
· Make a gratitude visit. Think of people who have influenced your family in a positive way. As a family, talk about how they have helped you and for what you would like to thank them. Then, buy them a small gift to represent our gratitude and arrange a time to visit with them. During your visit, give them the gift you bought and explain how they have influenced your family. In the midst of the visit, remember to verbally tell them “thank you.”
Perhaps you have more ideas for building gratitude in your family. Maybe you even have a special ritual, routine, or practice you use to instill gratitude in family members. Please share those ideas with us in the comment section below. We will all benefit as we nurture an attitude of gratitude in our families.