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!