- Why it’s important to have gratitude
- How to make it a part of your everyday
- How to help children develop gratitude
Why It’s Important
Gratitude is good for your physical health and your emotional well-being.
Physicians say those who are grateful enjoy better health, handle stress better and are better able to handle challenges.
Spiritual leaders say gratitude is good for your spiritual and emotional well-being when you recognize that good things do come to you and that they usually come from an outside source like God.
Gratitude helps you look outward, and when you are looking outward, you tend to give back and serve others.
You can teach kids about gratitude by role modeling that. If parents just complain about all that they don’t have, kids pick up on that attitude.
Gratitude doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it can be cultivated.
Dave just experienced a crushed toe, but at the end of the day, the Mitchells sat down with their kids and talked about all the people who blessed them and helped them through that challenge. Opportunities like that are good for kids to talk through, pointing out all the good things to be grateful for.
Another exercise Amy does started quite awhile ago when yellow child came home from school and for several days in a row, she just complained about all the terrible things in her day. So Amy started asking her every night for three things that she was grateful for throughout her day. When she changed her mindset to be looking for the blessings rather than the problems in her day, she was a happier girl. Amy has been asking this question with her kids every night as she puts them to bed for almost two years, and those kids look forward to it. If Amy forgets to ask or isn’t home when they go to bed, they come to her or call her on her cell phone so they can tell her their three things they are grateful for. Amy likes this nightly exercise because she gets one more little glimpse into their day.
Dave has a gratitude journal he writes in every night. In it, he writes down three things he is grateful for in his day. Sometimes it is brief when he’s tired, but other times when he has more time to devote to it, it is lengthier. He likes going back and reading it so he can better see all his blessings.
When the Mitchells were first married, they received a journal type book called their Joy Book. They were instructed to write in it the things that brought them joy, that they were grateful for. They love filling it with cute things the kids have said, the blessings they have received from others, the miracles in their lives that they don’t want to forget.
There are several exercises you can do with your family to help everyone cultivate an attitude of gratitude. But the value of gratitude is priceless.
People like being around others who are grateful. Negative people are not fun to be around.
There are some people who have given us a thank-you note or a little gift after coaching their team or serving them, and Amy tries to remember how that little thank you made her feel so good so that she can do the same for others and remember to express gratitude to them.
Many holidays are good opportunities to express gratitude. Some families go around the dinner table at Thanksgiving and express what they are thankful for. Some families have a gratitude tree where they write something they are thankful for on a leaf and cover the branches with these leaves. Mitchells also take some time on birthdays where all the family members to go around and express why they are thankful that that birthday child/sibling is in their family.
Christmas can easily be a time for selfishness or gratitude, depending on how you approach it. The Mitchells take their kids shopping for each other. They love picking what they think their sibling would like. They love watching them open their gifts from each other. It’s best if the kids buy those presents with their own money that they have earned throughout the year. You can also take your kids to a homeless shelter so they can see how much they do have compared to others.
Some holidays specifically focus on gratitude, but this is something you want your kids to have year round. You don’t want them to grow up feeling entitled. The items they want only get bigger, so teach them to work and serve others and that should help them be more grateful and less selfish.
Part of your morning routine should include a moment to focus on things you are grateful for.
Gratitude comes easy for some people and not so naturally for others. Amy tells a story of when all five kids were little and they wanted some candy. She told them they could have one bag of skittles if they didn’t mind sharing one bag. They were so excited to have they candy that they all agreed. Amy handed red child her allotted 5 skittles, and red child responded with a “Thank you.” She gave blue child his 5 skittles. “Thank you.” Green child. Same thing. But when yellow child got her 5 skittles, she cried out, “What?! That’s all I get?” It was the same amount for all of them, but some received it differently. That was when yellow child was 3 years old. She wouldn’t do that now, she has improved in her attitude of gratitude.
You can be grateful for blessings in every situation. If you can see the positive, then it will be so much easier to deal with challenges.
When Dave was on the hospital bed dealing with the pain in his shattered toe, he found it easier to handle the pain when he was asking the doctors and nurses about their families and themselves, focusing on others rather than himself.
Studies have shown a correlation between positivity and better health. Grateful people tend to heal faster too.
Sometimes kids need coaching. Before birthday parties, Mitchells remind their kids that if someone gives them a gift they already have, to still say “thank you”, not “I already have that”.
Mitchells also still write thank you notes for birthday presents and Christmas presents, though that may seem old school these days. Writing a thank you note helps people be more appreciative for the gifts they receive.
One time a radio host said that only 8% of people will actually write a thank you note for the gifts they receive this year and said that most people don’t do that anymore. The Mitchell kids exclaimed, “Not us!”
Gratitude, by John Hain. https://www.flickr.com/photos/128431605@N05/15459946421 ↩
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