A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.
As cooler temps are coming, one of my favorite holidays is also right around the corner, Thanksgiving. There’s something warm and familiar as families all over gather together, surrounded by favorite dishes such as turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, warm rolls, pumpkin pie, and many other delicious eats. The highways are crowded, as many travel from afar to visit loved ones on this special day. And many families, full bellies and all, flock to the couches afterwards, and enjoy the football game together. It is truly a day to be thankful, indeed.
Being thankful is something we can practice and teach our kids all year long. There are many benefits of practicing gratitude and being thankful, not just on this one day a year, but all year long. Studies have shown that being thankful improves our physical and emotional health. Holding on to feelings of thankfulness boosts our immune system and increases blood supply to our heart. Daily guided exercises or the habit of keeping a weekly gratitude journal can increase our alertness, enthusiasm, and energy, and improve our sleep. People who describe themselves as feeling grateful tend to suffer less stress and depression than the rest of the population. Sounds great, doesn’t it?!
It’s important to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in our home. Doing so will help our kids to feel less entitled and also to realize how blessed they are. It helps children to be more aware, so that they don’t take the things they have for granted.
Ways to cultivate thankfulness and gratitude all year long:
- Keep a gratitude (or thankful) journal. Get a regular notebook and some stickers and markers. Let the kids help to decorate their journals. Every night before bed, sit down together and let everyone write something that they’re thankful for. (Of course, for younger kids, they can tell you and you can write it for them.) I promise you, you will treasure this in the years to come!
- Make a thankful jar. Keep the jar out on the counter all year long, encouraging family members to write anytime they are thankful for something. On Thanksgiving Day you and your family can take turns reading different ones. This will help you to reflect and remember as a family all the blessings throughout the year.
- Be thankful during dinner. Ask your kids at the dinner table to tell you one thing each day that they’re thankful for. This is also a great conversation starter.
- Write thank-you notes. This is a simple way for kids to express gratitude to others for their kindness. You could carry a few blank note cards in your purse or vehicle and then try to look for people throughout the week to thank. Have your kids help decorate the cards ahead of time. It could be the mailman, a bus driver, a grandparent, a teacher, or perhaps a waiter who was extra nice. This is a great way to teach children how fun it is (and how good it feels) to thank others for what they do.
In all things and in all ways, give thanks, even on the hard days- and watch it become a way of life.
What are some things your family can do to encourage an attitude of gratitude?