“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity… it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” — Melody Beattie
If I had to identify the most important practice for my family, it would be gratitude.
When we notice and appreciate everyone and everything in our lives, life feels abundant and rich, with small and big blessings. During our chaotic day-to-day and with all the chaos happening on a grander scale throughout the world, gratitude is a great way to come back to ourselves, to our hearts, to our families, and to fill up our cups so we can be stronger caretakers for our loved ones and everyone around us.
When I am not consciously appreciating who and what I have, my mind begins comparing my life to others around me; I begin to think I don’t have enough, I am not doing enough — I am not enough — and it seems like everyone around me has it all. If I slip even further away from the practice of gratitude, I find myself living in a state of “lack” — of complaint, of gossip, and of assumptions. When you lose sight of your blessings, the value of your life goes down in your own mind, and that’s when inner discord and discord with others begin. It takes a change in perspective to bring our reality back into a positive space.
The practice of gratitude is one of my family’s core values, although it is often hard to focus on it and keep it going on a daily basis. Practicing gratitude daily is simple, but at times it isn’t easy. So I always look forward to November, the month of Thanksgiving, and the perfect time for a gratitude challenge.
There are many ways to keep gratitude alive in your home, but here are my top five:
Keep a daily gratitude journal
You can be as detailed or as brief as you like. On some days, I write down the top three moments I felt grateful for that day, such as my daughter grabbing my hand and pointing at the radio to dance with me. If nothing comes to mind, which happens on some days, we can be grateful for our hearts beating and keeping us alive, for the air, or for our health and the health of our loved ones. Focusing on the basic but most vital parts of ourselves and our loved ones is always a quick way to tap into how blessed we really are.
Dinner time gratitude
During family time, share with each other one thing you are grateful for that day. If your little ones aren’t talking yet, they will observe and absorb the lesson, which is a great learning experience for them. This is also a yearly Thanksgiving tradition at my in-laws’ home: Before eating, everybody shares the top event he or she is grateful for that year — sometimes the food gets a little cold, but it’s so worth it!
Write thank you cards
We all have people in our lives who have been consistently there for us, and although we have said thank you, there is nothing like a heartfelt, handwritten card arriving in their mailbox to warm their hearts. Maybe there is someone that you have meant to thank and haven’t gotten to it yet — make it a priority this month. If nobody comes to mind, don’t forget about your mail carrier, local firefighters and police, your local coffee shop owner, your yoga teacher, your local farmer, and on and on.
The blessings jar
Write little notes about your daily blessings, and put them in a jar. When you or one of your little ones is having a down day, read the blessings out loud to your family as a reminder of all the good in your lives.
Read books with the little ones
Reading books based on gratitude is a great way to get the little ones on board. Here are some of my favorites.
Choose one of these practices, a few of them, or all of them — or make up your own! The goal is to build a strong foundation in your home by reminding you and your loved ones of the importance of practicing gratitude. It’s simply a matter of consciously reminding yourselves of all the good and to give thanks for it.