I’ve been reading and thinking about gratitude lately. The more I learn, the more amazed I become. Gratitude has a powerful impact on the health and happiness of our families. So, I thought I’d share a little about what gratitude is…and what it is not. Then offer a gratitude challenge for your family…if you’re up for it.
Gratitude is not simply a feeling. It is an action, an intentional action taken to acknowledge a gift received and express thanks to the giver.
Gratitude is not a one-time event or a destination. It is a practice. We do not “arrive at” a life of gratitude; we “practice” a lifestyle of gratitude.
Gratitude is not simply “counting our blessings.” in fact, if we focus merely on the individual blessings of our lives, we risk promoting entitlement and arrogance rather than a humble life of gratitude. No, gratitude is a humble practice that broadens our perspective, enhancing our awareness of the vast beauty and kindness around us.
Gratitude, rather than a focus on what “I have received,” builds connection. It opens our eyes to the “giver” and the generosity of their gift. It heightens our perception and appreciation of the value inherent in the people and circumstances around us.
Gratitude is not giving begrudgingly or from obligation, which merely laces it with feelings of opposition and offense. It is not something we politely offer in passing, without thought, disingenuously and inauthentically. True gratitude is a practice in thoughtful action, authentic expression. In fact, an authentic expression of gratitude has the power to lift a person’s mood and strengthen their resolve.
As with any good practice, it takes time to cultivate gratitude. It takes time and practice to refine our gratitude skills. It takes active participation in the practice of gratitude to develop the mindset and poise that nurtures the habit and natural flow of gratitude.
I invite you to begin practicing gratitude with your family by keeping a “Family Gratitude Journal” for the next 2 weeks (make it a month for a real challenge). Once a day, maybe at dinner time or bedtime, look over the last 24 hours and write down:
- Three things for which each family member is grateful. Don’t write the same thing every day. Write something different each day.
- One to two nice things each family member did or said to someone else—this may be a person within the family or outside the family.
- One way in which each family member can acknowledge their gratitude over the next 24 hours. That might include a simple “thank you,” an act of paying it forward, or choosing some personal change that reflects your gratitude. Be creative and allow for the possibility of your life, not just your words, to speak of your gratitude.
You might keep this journal in a traditional paper notebook or choose some other creative way to record your gratitude. For instance, you could make construction paper leaves for each spoken thanks and form a tree on a wall in the family room. Or you might make a paper chain in which you write a record of gratefulness on each link. You get the idea…be as creative as you like. Then, after the challenge, let us know how this challenge changed your family. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.