Thanksgiving Day may have passed, but why not keep the giving of thanks alive in your family? When you make thanksgiving a part of your family’s everyday life, you will experience amazing benefits. For instance, research suggests that families who make thanksgiving a daily practice are more helpful, generous, and compassionate toward one another. Family members are more forgiving as well. They feel more positive toward the person they thank and, interestingly, are more comfortable expressing concerns as well. Not only that, but practicing gratitude motivates the one receiving the thanks to work harder. And, the person who practices gratitude feels less lonely as well. With all these benefits, why not make the giving of thanks a daily activity in your family…keep thanksgiving alive all year round? Here is one simple way to help you keep thanksgiving alive throughout the year. Start a family gratitude journal. Once a day get together as a family and let each person share two to three things for which they are thankful. Write them in the journal. Then, leave the journal in a public place throughout the day. Every time someone gets the urge, they can add a note of thanks to the journal. When you thank Mom for dinner, add it to the journal as well. When your son takes out the garbage, thank him…and then add it to the journal. When Dad goes to work in the morning, thank him for his hard work…and write it in the journal. When your sister shares her nail polish with you, give her a hug of thanks…and record it in the journal. If you don’t like the idea of a journal, do a “gratitude collage” or a “gratitude jar.” Whatever you choose, keep it up for a whole month and observe the impact of continued thanks will have on your family life. You will never want to quit!
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Thanksgiving is more than a seasonal discussion of gratitude…more than a big family meal…more than a day of watching football. Thanksgiving, in my opinion, is a way of life. A lifestyle of thanksgiving provides many benefits to a family life. In fact, after reading these five benefits of thanksgiving, you might decide to let the day of Thanksgiving this year “jump start” a whole year of gratitude for your family.
- A lifestyle of thanksgiving teaches us to appreciate the blessings we have. A thankful family replaces a sense of entitlement with an appreciation for the unearned gifts received…gifts like someone doing our laundry, preparing our meals, or paying the bills to keep our house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A lifestyle of thanksgiving will takes us a step further to realize that every breath we take, every heartbeat that sends blood coursing through our body, and every time we run down the stairs are gifts we have been freely given. We truly are a blessed people.
- Thanksgiving replaces a selfish attitude with an attitude of generosity. As we realize how much we have received and how freely it was given, our desire to share will increase. We will become more generous. Generosity in a family leads to more acts of kindness and sharing…something else for which we can give thanks.
- Thanksgiving helps us develop greater peace of mind. When we neglect to offer thanks for the gifts we have received, our selfish desires grow. We look at what we do not have and experience want, a growing desire for more. We experience envy. We grow demanding. A lifestyle of thanksgiving puts our desire in perspective. Thanksgiving turns our focus toward the blessings we have received, the abundant material blessing we have, and the amazing opportunities each day presents. Gratitude replaces desire and envy. Giving thanks replaces demanding. A lifestyle of thanksgiving helps us focus on how much we have to be thankful for.
- A lifestyle of thanksgiving increases our joy and hope. As we focus on the blessings and gracious gifts we have received, we build a joyous past. We nurture an expectation that our future will be provided as well. We no longer need to worry and fret over what the future holds. Instead, the joys of thanksgiving will have strengthened the realization that God does provide and that life is good. We will have established a hope based on the memories of thanksgiving, a hope that God will also take care of our tomorrow. No need to worry, give thanks.
- A lifestyle of thanksgiving even helps make tough times more bearable. For three ways thanksgiving does this read Intentional Gratitude.
A lifestyle of thanksgiving can benefit our families all year long! Why not let this season of Thanksgiving “jump start” a year of gratitude for your family? You can practice thanksgiving all year round by starting a thanksgiving tree, a gratitude journal, or simply making a point of thanking one another every day for something. Believe me, the benefits will prove priceless!
Thankfulness is in season right now…however, it has benefits for the family all year round! That’s right; an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness benefits families all the time. Let me share a few of the research based benefits of thankfulness so you can use them to strengthen your own family.
· Gratitude makes us happier. Did you know that taking 5 minutes a day to record your gratitude in a journal can actually increase your sense of well-being by 10%? That’s the same impact as doubling your income…and taking 5 minutes a day to keep a gratitude journal is a whole lot easier than doubling your income! So, if you want a happy family, take five minutes during supper or just before bed and let each family member name a couple things for which they are grateful. Write them down and keep a journal. Review it once in a while to remind yourself of all you and your family have to be thankful for.
· Gratitude makes us healthier. Want to spend less on family medical care? Want to have a healthier family, allowing your family to get out and do things together? Practice gratitude. Those people who keep a gratitude journal tend to have fewer physical symptoms, less physical pain, more sleep, and increased sleep quality as well as fewer symptoms of depression. Interestingly, in one study a group of people with high blood pressure were instructed to “count their blessings once a week” and had a significant decrease in “systolic blood pressure.”
· Gratitude reduces materialism. Becoming aware of and expressing gratitude for what we have shifts our focus away from things that do not really matter. Practicing gratitude helps keep our focus on what does matter—like family, friends, health, and the multitude of blessings we already have. Practically speaking, when our family practices gratitude, family members will ask for less and whine less about “what I wish I had” or the newest gadget “I need.” Instead, we will joyfully share with one another from the bountiful blessings we already have and enjoy.
· Gratitude makes us less self-centered. An attitude of gratitude focuses on other people—their acts of generosity, kindness, and benevolence. Gratitude focuses on what I have been given, implicitly turning my focus on the grace and generosity of others. As your family practices gratitude, the whole family will become more giving, generous, and other-focused.
· Gratitude also reduces feelings of envy. Have your children ever said, “But so-and-so has a…” or “But why does my older brother get to stay up later?” Perhaps you have even had that fleeting thought of envy—”Man, I wish I could afford a house like that.” Gratitude is the antidote for those feelings of jealousy and envy. Model focusing your attention on those blessings you have…and expressing gratitude for those blessings as well. Teach your children to recognize their blessings.
· Gratitude creates a happy past. The past we recall is somewhat a choice. We can keep the good or the negative aspects of our past in the forefront of our memory. By keeping a mental record of blessings in the forefront of our memory, we recall a more joyous past filled with blessings. As we express gratitude for what we have today, we prime our mind to remember the blessings of yesterday.
· Gratitude strengthens your marriage. Marriage loses passion when spouses become less appreciative and interactions become more negative. Practicing gratitude is one way to counter the loss of appreciation and the increase of negative interactions. In addition, we admire those character traits for which we are grateful. So, being grateful for those positive character traits in our spouse and the positive things they do will increase admiration and adoration for our spouse. Increased adoration and admiration translates to more passion too. Not only is this good for you, but your children will feel more secure and have greater happiness as they witness their parents expressing gratitude for one another and sharing a twinkle of admiration and adoration in their eye as they talk of their spouse.
· Gratitude improves decision making. In one interesting study, doctors were given a patient record that included a list of symptoms and an incorrect diagnosis of lupus. Half of the doctors were also given a token of appreciation to evoke gratitude. Those who were given the token of appreciation were more likely to expend more time and energy to confirm and then correct the misdiagnosis. The doctors who did not receive a token of appreciation were more likely to stick with the incorrect diagnosis. So, if you want your children to think through decisions more often and have increased flexibility to change their poor decisions into better decisions, give them “tokens of appreciation for” (AKA–show gratitude for, thank them for) their efforts and other positive actions. Practicing gratitude toward family members will motivate them to improve decision making. Cultivate the art of thanking one another daily…every chance you get!
Gratitude really does fabulous things for a family. This blog only reviews 8 fabulous family benefits of thankfulness. Check out a full 31 Benefits of Gratitude to discover even more benefits! In the meantime, why not use gratitude to strengthen your family? Model gratitude in your own life so your family can follow your lead. Teach gratitude by asking everyone to share something for which they are thankful. You can do this at dinner time, bed time, or any time when you happen to be talking with one another. Keep a gratitude journal, make a post-it gratitude list on the hallway wall, create a gratitude tree craft on the fridge…. You get the idea, be creative in keeping a gratitude journal as a family. Then, reap the benefits of a grateful family!
It is that time of year. You know, the time of year when people think about gratitude… Thanksgiving. In fact, I have seen several people posting thanks on their Facebook page each day to celebrate a month of thanksgiving. So, if you will bear with me for a moment, I want to share 8 things about family for which I am thankful.
1. I am thankful for my wife. My wife supports me in so many ways. She encourages me and helps me work toward my dreams. She gives wise input to all our decisions and steers me away from unwise choices. All in all, she brings out the best in me.
2. I am thankful for my daughters. I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters. They are talented, kind, and compassionate. I am often amazed at their acts of kindness as well as their compassion. I am very proud of them…and thankful to have them in my life.
3. I am thankful for my parents. I understand more and more each day how blessed I am to have grown up in the family I did. My parents’ love and guidance set me on a path that has led to my own joyous family and life.
4. I am thankful for the sound of music that so often pervades our home. Not just the radio, but the singing, piano playing, guitar playing, oboe playing, horn playing…that I so often hear. Music has truly added great joy to my family life.
5. I am thankful for the family dinners we enjoyed. We do not get to have family dinners every night…I often work evenings. We do, however, enjoy family dinners and lunches on a regular basis. Some of my favorite memories revolve around dinner conversations, laughter, and intimate times of sharing. Sometime I will have to share some of those dinner conversations…actually, my family says I better not.
6. I am thankful for times we worship as a family. I remember Christmas Eve services, Thanksgiving eve services, Sunday worship services, and camp worship services in which we worshipped as a family. The joy of seeing my family serve in worship has also been a great source of gratitude.
7. I am thankful for times we serve others as a family. I look back with great fondness at the times of serving in VBS, children’s programs, and a mission trip together. Those times of service provided wonderful opportunities for us to connect with one another, share our family love with others, and grow together.
8. I am thankful for our family vacations. Some of my favorite family vacations have included the beach and camping. There is nothing better than sitting and playing on the beach as a family. The relaxed time of togetherness led to deeper conversations and great fun that I would not trade for anything.
As I write this out, it sounds a little gushy…sappy even. But we are called to be a thankful people. When we remember to view the world and our families through the eyes of gratitude, we find more joy and greater intimacy. So, for the goal of joy and intimacy I can sound a little gushy—how about you? What are you most thankful for in your family?
2. I am thankful for the humor in my family. I love to see my wife and children laugh, even if it means laughing at me sometimes. I am thankful for laughter in my family. I am not sure my children are as thankful for “my humor” as I am thankful for their humor. Being the only male in an all-female household does lead to some humor differences…or, as my daughters might say, “humor challenges” on my part. Yes, I love the humor, joy, and laughter we share as a family. 3. I am thankful for music in my family. We all enjoy music. Sometimes we enjoy serious music. Sometimes we enjoy playful music. Sometimes we enjoy downright silly music. We sing songs, play songs, make up songs and lyrics. I’ll let you in on a little secret—when my kids were smaller, I even danced with them while the music played…but don’t tell anyone.
4. I am thankful for mealtimes with my family. I often work evenings so we don’t get to eat dinner together as often as I’d like. However, we do eat together as often as possible and that means we generally eat three to five major meals together a week. I enjoy those times of sharing conversation and food.
5. I am thankful for my daughters’ cookies. They make awesome chocolate chip cookies. Those cookies taste best when fresh out of the oven, warm and melting in your hand. Of course, the preparation includes eating some raw cookie dough and trying to sneak an extra spoonful when my daughters tell me not to. I am thankful for my daughters’ cookies.
6. I am thankful for play in my family. We love to play. We enjoy playful conversation, playful interactions, and playful games. I have to say, I am not the most competitive person in the world, but I do enjoy playing games with my family and friends. “All I want to do is to make them smile, if it takes just a little while…” Usually, when we play a game everyone ends up smiling, laughing, and having a good time.
7. I am thankful for our arguments. Yes, they happen. When I think about it, I am thankful for them. As much as I find them frustrating at the time, those arguments and disagreements bring us closer. We learn about one another. We learn how to have disagreements while still loving and sharing love. We learn how to resolve disagreements and keep the love. We learn what is really important and what is not so important. We learn to love one another. Yes, I am even thankful for our arguments.
8. I am thankful for closeness in my family. We share a lot of love in our family. Sometimes I come home from work and find everyone in my room lounging on the bed and sharing time together. I don’t even have a place to sit down. But, everyone shifts around and makes room. I pretend to grumble about it, but really I’m thankful that we can all sit in the same small room and enjoy one another’s company. We share a closeness that means the world to me.
9. I am thankful for my family’s faith. We love our Heavenly Father. We love worshipping our Savior. I am thankful for the times we can do that as a family. From the time my children were small, I have found no greater joy than to worship as a family. My whole family desires to do that…and for that I am thankful.
Yes, Thanksgiving will last longer than a mere day in my life this year. How about you? Will you join me in stretching Thanksgiving all the way to Christmas? Please do…join the Thanksgiving Extension Plan. Who knows, maybe we’ll make Thanksgiving a way of life!
Gratitude comes easy when life is good, love is easy, and family relationships running smooth. But, when life becomes rushed, love stressed, and family members disappointing, gratitude becomes more difficult. During such times, we must intentionally become attentive of our family and make a purposeful effort to show them gratitude. Why make the effort? Let me share three of the many reasons gratitude is worth the effort, even when times are difficult.
Gratitude protects us from temptation. One author suggests that a lack of gratitude laid the foundation for Adam and Eve to sin in the Garden of Eden. Could it be that a lack of gratitude for the abundant blessings available in the Garden allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve with the one tree they were told to avoid? Perhaps an expression of gratitude for the extravagant abundance available in the Garden would have staved off the temptation to eat the “forbidden” fruit.
I find this principle true in marriages as well. When a couple stops expressing gratitude for one another, they lay the foundation for a potential affair. The one who does not express appreciation for their spouse may find themselves tempted to partake of the “forbidden fruit” that deceptively appears “greener” than the fruit in their own house. And, the one that feels unappreciated may find themselves drawn to someone outside the marriage who expresses gratitude and appreciation for them. Gratitude protects us from temptation.
Gratitude reduces stress and gives us courage. A lack of gratitude leaves us dissatisfied with our past. It leads to grumbling and complaining. Perhaps Israel wandered the wilderness for forty years partly in response to a lack of gratitude. After all, they had experienced God’s protection during the plagues in Egypt, His deliverance from Egypt, and His miraculous power as they crossed the Red Sea. They survived on God’s provision of food and water as well. In spite of these opportunities to give thanks, they grumbled and complained. They focused on what they did not have rather than focusing on God’s miraculous provision. In their midst of grumbling, they sent a reconnaissance mission into the Promise Land. Most of the spies returned fearful of the Promise Land. Their lack of gratitude for God’s miraculous provision led to self-induced fear, mistrust, and a future with no vision. As a result, they spent 40 years wandering the wilderness.
It comes as no surprise that when a person grumbles, they feel more stress. Grumbling focuses on dissatisfaction and worry. Complainers feed off others who complain. Grumbling escalates and the focus on the worst case scenario grows stronger, fear increases, courage falls away. Gratitude, on the other hand, sets our focus on those things that have gone well and those blessings we have received. It lends itself to a peaceful acceptance of what we have today. It grants us courage, based on the gracious joys of yesterday, to accomplish our vision of tomorrow. As an unknown author stated, “gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
Gratitude keeps love alive and growing. Without gratitude, love fades. When we feel stressed, irritated, or rushed, we often project those feelings onto those around us. These are the times when we do not feel like expressing gratitude. Instead, we take people and things for granted. Our interactions become more harsh, hurried, or even rude. I have met many children, teens, and young adults who misbehave in an effort to elicit some expression of emotion from others. If they can not elicit the joy of gratitude and appreciation, they will accept the connection of irritated anger and frustration. As this continues, love fades and attention-seeking misbehavior grows. Lest you think this only relates to children, consider what happens in your marriage if you feel that your spouse does not appreciate you. Love fades and attention seeking behavior grows.
Gratitude, on the other hand, expresses that you value the other person enough to attend to and appreciate them. In fact, gratitude becomes a gift of appreciation. It sparks the embers of affection and fans the flame of love. It pleases the heart and endears us to one another. Gratitude creates the foundation of joy today that becomes a vision tomorrow. Gratitude keeps love alive and growing.
So, how can we remain grateful when we are frustrated, stressed, disappointed, or feeling rushed? Here are a few ways to intentionally make gratitude a part of your family life:
- Volunteer as a family to help those less fortunate.
- Take time to recall and list as many qualities as you can think of that you have appreciated about each family member in the past.
- Make a daily list of three things you appreciate about each family member.
- Make a weekly list of 3-5 things each family member has done to help strengthen family relationships.
- Make a point of sharing one item from your list with each family member each day.
HAVE A GREAT THANKSGIVING!!!