That’s right, Thanksgiving is around the corner. At this time of year, a lot of families may be thinking about how to cook a turkey and what sides to pair it with. Or they’re thinking about relatives they’re going to see and planning ways to keeping kids busy while out of school. Or maybe . . . they’re thinking about developing family habits of thankfulness and gratitude.
When it comes to gratitude, a classic analogy is true: it is a lot like a muscle. The more you work on building it up the easier it is to use, and the benefits of gratitude are worth the effort. People who are grateful may have stronger immune systems, cope with stress better, and have more energy overall. They also may be better able to solve difficult mental challenges, build friendships, be more productive, and get better sleep.
Looking to find some more gratitude? Below are some easy ways that you can develop gratitude in your family at this – or at any other – time of year.
Start small and let the habit grow – Consider starting small. Try being thankful for a pet, an easy kindness from someone else, a family adventure, or even simple good weather. Over time, these smaller examples of gratitude may grow into being thankful for a home, a good resolution to a family matter, or nicely ending an argument that younger members experience with friends or a sibling.
Create a gratitude jar – Families can celebrate small and large appreciations by writing them on paper and placing them in a gratitude jar. The items can be read once a week, once a day, or at a special time like Thanksgiving dinner or another meal. To involve kids in this further, allow them to decorate the jar or create a special space in the house to put it on display.
Read books together that are based on the theme of gratitude – Children can learn a lot about the power of gratitude through reading. A quick website search can help you find the right book for your family – there are a lot out there. Some classic suggestions include: Being Thankful by Mercer Meyer, Thanks from the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, or Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Seuss. These options are for early readers but contain messages that resonate with family members of any age. Select one of these to read or find something else that works for your family and let the page turning begin! Then, take a moment and celebrate your own gratitude that family members are spending time with books.
Take it to the next level: give back – Once kids appear to understand the concept of gratitude, they may be better able to take the next step – sharing their bounty by giving back to others. Volunteer opportunities can be present in many communities. Examples include: working at food banks and homeless shelters, participating in community outreach with churches or other religious groups, joining community clean-up days, raking leaves or shoveling snow for a neighbor, and helping at animal shelters.
Before you volunteer with an organization, take time to let them know that you’re planning to visit, when you’re expecting to arrive, and how many people will be there to help. Sometimes – particularly at Thanksgiving – organizations can be overloaded with well-meaning volunteers. Providing advance notice of your arrival helps them stay organized and make the best use of your time.