Gratitude fills us up. A little inner appreciation helps us stop from grasping for sustenance and satisfaction outside ourselves. A thankful attitude strengthens relationships, reduces stress, improves health and helps us feel happier.
Sometimes we can fall out of the positive habit of showing our appreciation. Gratitude isn’t automatic after all, but it is a habit that you can develop in a few simple acts. Follow these five steps to get your family back in the gratitude groove.
Put an end to complaining, criticising or gossiping for a specified amount of time—one week, a whole month or whatever you think is a reasonable goal for your family. Discuss what it means to complain, criticise or gossip with your family and why these are not positive attitudes. Then playfully catch each other when one of you breaks a rule. You will break a rule, and that’s okay. Building awareness of negative habits rather than shaming, allows you to redirect emotions in a more positive direction.
Be sure to explain that having legitimate needs and expressing those needs is encouraged and expected. No family member should feel like they can’t ask for what they legitimately need. If negative communication patterns persist, try asking the question, “What do you need right now?” And don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “What do I need?” When everyone feels that their needs are being met, gratitude naturally flows in and helps everyone shift into a more positive attitude.
Recognise what you feel grateful for throughout the day, and try to make it a daily habit. If you are usually so busy that you are just trying to keep up with everyone’s busy schedules, it is important to take time to reflect. Try to pause several times a day when you feel happy and acknowledge the source so that you can model the habit for the rest of your family.
Acknowledge something you feel grateful for by writing it down or saying it aloud to someone else, or do both. Gratitude becomes more positive when it is shared.
After you recognise and acknowledge something to feel grateful for, sit with it for at least ten seconds or for several deep breaths. Ruminating on your appreciation can help it grow and, in turn, immediately boost your happiness. And who doesn’t want to be happier right now?
19 daily gratitude techniques
Every day, look for ways you can deepen your appreciation for daily life. When you do this with conviction, you set a good example for the rest of the family. Still need more help? Pick a few of these techniques to practice until they become habits.
- Find something around you right now to appreciate. Look around the room. What do you see, smell, hear, taste or feel? Our senses help us connect with our appreciation.
- Notice how your young children set an example of spontaneous gratitude and then follow their leads. Approach your day through a child’s eyes.
- Post reminders of things you appreciate about family members on sticky notes. Leave a message on the coffee pot for your spouse. Put a note in with your son’s lunch. Get in the habit of leaving little appreciation notes in hard-to-miss places throughout the house.
- Keep an ongoing list of something you are grateful for right now. Use a notes app in your smartphone to keep track or carry a memo pad in your purse.
- Before you go to bed, write down something you appreciated from earlier in the day on your calendar. Later, you can look back at your calendar and remember the month fondly.
- Take a moment to recollect what inspires awe in you whether it is changing seasons, a person who lifts you up or someone who is really good at what they do. Don’t let a day go by without checking in with these inspiring touchstones.
- Appreciate mistakes you make today. Tell your children stories of how bouncing back from misjudgements makes you a more humble person who is not afraid to be human.
- Say something kind to someone and mean it. Tell folks what you admire about them. If you like what a person is wearing, say so. If this person is always kind or positive, compliment them for it.
- Discuss lessons learned in the past. Everyone goes through challenges in life—don’t forget yours. Turn them into a list of character-building stories about your life.
- Appreciate something with another person. Remarking, “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” helps you both focus on the positive and forget distracting thoughts.
- Don’t keep good news to yourself. Notice good service and offer feedback about it before you forget. If you can’t get your hands on a comment card, ask to speak to a manager and report good employees.
- On the weekend, ask everyone to share their best moments of the week. You can do this around the dinner table or at bedtime. Even once a week is better than never. If your kids are feeling down, ask for a positive and a negative to balance out all the feelings.
- Thank someone for something no matter how small. If you want your kids to be more grateful, thank them for things you appreciate. Gratitude begets gratitude.
- Appreciate nature and the earth. Where would you be without them? Stop to smell a flower or pick up a pretty stone to take home and put on your dresser or a bookshelf.
- In moments that are hard, appreciate the opportunity to grow in character, even if you don’t like what is happening. Sometimes in life, we have to take our medicine.
- Always try to be as present as possible when interacting with others whether they are strangers or family members. Put your phone down or stop what you are doing—be attentive, not distracted.
- Find a cause that is important to you and contribute time, money or energy. Remember that there is no perfect way to do this. Whatever you can do, let it be enough. Then be sure to share the experience with your kids.
- Accept a compliment from someone else, whenever one is offered. Stop, smile and say thank you. Practice self-kindness so you can extend kindness to others.
- Use the calendar on your phone to alert you to pause for a moment and find something to feel grateful about. Add it to a gratitude list that you can reflect on later or just relax for a minute and savor the moment.
AUTHOR, JOURNALIST AND WRITING COACH CHRISTINA KATZ FLEXES HER HAPPY MUSCLES DAILY BY STOPPING AND APPRECIATING THE LITTLE THINGS AS WELL AS THE PEOPLE AROUND HER.