What are you grateful for? If you think about it, there are plenty of options. The sun rising, your health, a steady job, food on the table, internet access, the FamilyTech blog? Even when we are at our most stressed state, or when everything around us might feel like it’s crumbling, there are things we should take the time to appreciate. These ideas aren’t new and in fact, there are a lot of influential people talking about how you can make practicing gratitude a habit with your family.
But before we get into how to add this to our routine, why is practicing gratitude important?
To start, there are actual studies that show that gratitude practice can actually re-wire your brain. Here is an excerpt from the article that talks about that study.
For the study, a team of researchers out of Indiana University led by Prathik Kini recruited 43 subjects suffering from anxiety or depression. Half of this group were assigned a simple gratitude exercise — writing letters of thanks to people in their lives — and three months later all 43 underwent brain scans.
During these brain scans, the subjects participated in a gratitude task in which they were told a benefactor had given them a sum of money and were asked whether they’d like to donate a portion of the funds to charity as an expression of their gratitude. Those who gave away money showed a particular pattern of activity in their brains, but that wasn’t the most interesting part of the findings.
What was? “The participants who’d completed the gratitude task months earlier not only reported feeling more gratefulness two weeks after the task than members of the control group but also, months later, showed more gratitude-related brain activity in the scanner. The researchers described these ‘profound’ and ‘long-lasting’ neural effects as ‘particularly noteworthy,'” psychology writer Christian Jarrett explains on the Science of Us blog.
That’s some compelling evidence. Additionally, some of the most successful people in the world make a habit out of this practice. Here is a quote from Tony Robbins an author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who is the founder of several companies that generate more than $5 billion in annual sales.
I focus on three moments in my life that I’m grateful for because gratitude is the antidote to the things that mess us up. You can’t be angry and grateful simultaneously. You can’t be fearful and grateful simultaneously. So, gratitude is the solution to both anger and fear, and instead of just acting grateful, I think of specific situations that I’m grateful for, little ones and big ones. I do it every single day, and I step into those moments and I feel the gratitude and the aliveness.
Here is another example from a Mom, author, and researcher named Brene Brown. You may know her from books like Daring Greatly or Rising Strong. Here is a video of her talking about the connection between joy and gratitude and how it looks in her home.
So we can agree that practicing gratitude is important and has real benefits. So how can you translate that information into a doable practice in your home with your family? There are plenty of ways, here are a few you can begin to implement right away.
The Gratitude Jar – Put a Mason jar in your kitchen or living room with slips of paper nearby. Write down things you are grateful for and slip them into the jar. The physical representation of the jar is a great reminder of those grateful moments and can be an encouraging thing to open and read from time to time.
Expressing Gratitude Around the Dinner Table – At dinner, simply go around the table and have everyone talk about something from their day they are grateful for.
Gratitude Through Photos – Once a week, have your kids take a photo of something that they are grateful for and then tell the rest of the family why they chose what they chose.
There are so many other ways to make this a part of how your family functions and the results are certain to make everyone more joyful and maybe re-wire your brains in the process.
How does your family express gratitude?