Each of us has the ability to feel gratitude and share it out with others. At times along our life journey, we may lose sight of everything we have to be grateful for. Sometimes, a little practice is required to get back into a natural rhythm of counting our blessings, and noticing everything that is so beautiful about life.
As a mom of two boys, I enjoy witnessing their learning and fresh perspective on life. I’m continually learning along with them. I can’t help but feel motivated to bring subjects like gratitude to the surface for us all to experience and practice together as a family.
Injecting an attitude of gratitude into our household is something we all contribute to. It isn’t always straightforward. Each member of our family can cycle through times of being pessimistic or unappreciative.
The upside of practicing gratitude and making it be a part of our family credo, is that we lift each other up when one of us falls. We remind one another through our words and actions, how important it is to express our gratitude and love of life with each other. There is always one of us who steps up and leads by example, and it isn’t always one of two adults in the household either!
If your family would benefit from practicing more gratitude, see what happens when you come together to count your blessings. These 3 powerful principles have helped my family build a gratitude practice that can grow with us.
Gratitude Practice #1: Create a Family Ritual
Creating traditions and rituals in a household adds something special everyone gets to take ownership of and share. We have a family gratitude rock that comes out at meal times. Each person takes a turn holding the rock, while sharing something they are grateful for. We usually start by sharing something about the day. This has worked great over the years. Sometimes the sharing is about simple pleasures, like the delicious ice cream we had for dessert. Other times it is about getting to spend time with friends, or feeling happy for family. One of my favorites is when my youngest loved sharing how grateful he is to be himself.
The idea is to create a ritual where you come together and give thanks in a way that’s meaningful to you. It’s basically an invitation to pause and express gratitude together as a family. Having a ritual like this creates an amazing foundation for getting into the habit of being thankful for regular everyday things. It also creates wonderful memories of being together through different stages of life. Have some fun with this and personalize your family ritual so it will be enjoyed for years to come.
Gratitude Practice #2: Conversation Starter
Maintaining open lines of communication, even when it feels challenging to do so, gives us a golden ticket to have more conversations that include gratitude. Sure a lot of what is said under one roof doesn’t always register. But, when members of a family feel like they can openly and freely talk to one another, there will be more opportunities to chat and discuss what is going on in each other’s lives. These conversations can be really helpful in gaining perspective and clarity on where each person is coming from. This understanding can help everyone in a household support each other to feel good about life.
Open lines of communication in a family means being open to having lots of conversations about lots of different things. The end of the day always seems to be when my boys open up about everything. This is when we tend to have conversations where we can bring the focus back on what we are thankful for. Choose what works best for your family. Conversations don’t always have to be serious either — they can be funny and silly and lighthearted and still have rich learning and lessons in them. Sometimes the best way to practice more gratitude is to share a good laugh. This is sure to result in feeling happy, connected and grateful in the moment.
Gratitude Practice #3: Show Gratitude
As a family, we have the opportunity to teach one another. If we want to feel appreciated, we can start by being appreciative. Showing each other what gratitude looks like through our actions is so powerful.
I’ve often noticed how fantastic children are at teaching others around them what pure joy looks like. They do it naturally through their actions. I find it captivating to watch my boys guide their lives from a place of giddiness and gratitude as they are immersed in different experiences and activities. Witnessing their love of life instantly makes my heart full.
There still can be times when appreciation and gratitude isn’t plentiful, and it can feel disheartening. I’ve learned this is when it’s most important for me to step up and show them (and myself) how to focus on what’s working well. The ‘no fail’ approach I use, is to stay calm and connect deeper with my own reasons for being grateful, and then share that energy with my family. When the mama is happy, everything seems to fall in place.
Young people are always watching, listening and learning from us. The best way we can teach them about gratitude is to show them what that looks like in our words, actions and interactions with the world around us. If they see us living our lives from a place of gratitude, it will be more natural for them to follow in our footsteps.
Remember at the end of the day there isn’t a right or wrong way to be grateful. It’s your by design. Have fun and enjoy each other.
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Written by Emily Madill. Originally published at Medium.com