Cultivating Thankfulness This Month and Beyond

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November 21, 2016

November rolls around each year and we are constantly reminded to be thankful. Give thanks. Thanksgiving. “What are you thankful for?”

We all know we should be thankful, but sometimes it’s not easy. We often get caught up in our don’t haves, drama (election), bills, and everyday stress. We forget to feel thankful. It’s important to cultivate gratitude and tend it as we would a garden.

Here are four ways to start your gratitude habit:

1. Take Time for Solitude

Try to take a little time each day for solitude (that means no cell phones or other distractions) and consider all you have. Your list may be short at first, but soon you’ll find yourself noticing more and more things you are thankful for throughout the day.

When we truly feel thankful, a sense of peace comes over us. It feels like a blanket of warmth when we realize, “You know, I really do have enough. I have an amazing life. I may not have all I’d like, but I have (this) and (this), and these things give me enormous joy.”

2. Model Thankfulness

Teaching your children to be thankful is important and can help you foster thankfulness yourself. You can help your kids make a list of two or three things they are thankful for and why they are thankful for them. Delving into the why really helps them (and us) understand how much the things and people we may take for granted affect and enrich our daily lives. When we are grateful and thankful, we are generally happier. It doesn’t mean we can’t want more or work for change, but it enables us to feel the joy of where we are right now in our lives.

3. Start a Gratitude Journal

Thanksgiving is the perfect time for you and your children to start a gratitude journal. Get a small book for each family member, or share one journal as a family, and add to it each day. You can make it an after dinner family ritual, with each person naming one thing he or she is grateful for.

I often remind my kids to be thankful. Do they listen? Who knows? But when you hear something often enough, it can become a habit. Sure, they are typical teens and want to keep up with their peers and have every popular product on the market, but I also want them to realize all we do have —each other, for example—and to appreciate that.

4. Express Thanks

Don’t forget to say thank you, whether you say it aloud or write it in your gratitude journal, or in a note to a friend or relative. These two little words are incredibly powerful. You can thank God, the universe, each other or even yourself. “Thank you for my ability to enjoy nature” or “Thank you for my healthy body.” “Thank you for being in my life” and “Thank you for understanding me, for making me smile!”

Do you say thank you often enough?

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