Thanksgiving isn't just about family and friends gathering around a table to feast on turkey, stuffing, and pie. It's traditionally a holiday about giving thanks. Giving thanks isn't just reserved for Thanksgiving, though. Gratitude, or being thankful, can be a part of every home every day of the year. Research shows there are numerous benefits to being grateful - it's associated with an increase in well-being (Froh et al., 2014) which positively effects mental health (Layous, Chancellor, & Lyubomirsky, 2014). Not only is gratitude involved with well-being, it's also a predictor for positive relationships (Froh, Bono, & Emmons, 2010) and can improve school satisfaction (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008).
One way to grow in gratitude would be to do a service project together. It can be as simple as raking the leaves for your neighbor or as elaborate as facilitating a food basket drive for your local homeless shelter. In serving others, take time to reflect on all you have been given as a family.
At the dinner table each night, go around the table and have each family member share something they are grateful for. You can even mix it up one night and have each member say something they are grateful for about each other!
Do a gratitude scavenger hunt where each family member (or you could do teams) goes around and takes pictures of:
- a family member they are grateful for
- a place they are grateful for
- something in nature they are grateful for
- something in their closet they are grateful for
- a food they are grateful for
- a friend they are grateful for
- something blue they are grateful for
- something soft they are grateful for
- something shiny they are grateful for
- something that makes noise they are grateful for
- just a few ideas above but add your own items!
Other activities include making a thankful tree or gratitude wreath.
Jim and Lynne Jackson, co-founders of Connected Families, provide readers with some other ideas of ways families can grow in gratitude. They recommend parents provide their children with opportunities to learn responsibility through participation in chores or opportunities to earn money by doing things around the house. Further, they encourage families to practice showing gratitude to one another - that includes parents expressing gratitude to their children. Lastly, they recommend parents model gratefulness.
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I'll close with a quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was a German pastor and theologian:
“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”
I hope not only your Thanksgiving, but also your every day "with gratitude... becomes rich."
Froh, J. J., Bono. G., & Emmons, R. (2010). Being grateful is beyond good manners: Gratitude and motivation to contribute to society among early adolescents. Motivation and Emotion, 34, 144-157.
Froh, J. J., Bono, G., Fan, J., Emmons, R. A., Henderson, K., Harris, C, . . .Wood, A. M. (2014). Nice thinking! An educational intervention that teaches children to think gratefully. School Psychology Review.
Froh, J. J., Sefick, W. J., & Emmons, R. A. (2008). Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 213-233.
Layous, K., Chancellor, J., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). Positive activities as protective factors against mental health conditions. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 123, 3-12.