I always love it when social scientists stumble across something that is good for our mental, emotional and physical health that has been in the Bible since it was written! In recent years, numerous studies have found that having a grateful heart can reduce depression, lessen anxiety, support heart health, relieve stress, improve sleep (UCLAhealth.org) and make us more optimistic and hopeful (health.Harvard.edu). And those articles don’t even examine the spiritual health benefits of gratitude, which I believe are humility, faith, patience, perseverance, love and a host of other positive spiritual results from a consistent spirit of gratitude. In fact, “give thanks” is one of the most common phrases after “fear not” in both the Old and New Testaments. God knows being grateful is in everyone’s best interest.
This post is coming out right before the month of November as an encouragement to celebrate Thanksgiving all month. The truth is that your family can and should do these activities throughout the year. Some you may only do once or occasionally, while others may become a daily practice. Not only will you begin seeing the benefits listed above, but you may just find parenting becomes easier as whining and complaining give way to gratitude!
Here are some of our favorite ways to bring more gratitude into your home.
- Gratitude Journal. It is important to be intentional about noticing things for which to be grateful. There are several different ways that you can do this. Have each of your children decorate a spiral notebook or composition book as their personal gratitude journal. You may also want to keep one as a family. At the end of each day, take a few moments and have everyone name one to three things for which they are grateful. (I recently found a gratitude journal for children to use with questions to guide their thinking at Five Below.)
- Gratitude Jar. This is more of a long term activity. Decorate a gratitude container and place it on your kitchen table or somewhere where everyone will see it daily. Place slips of paper and pens beside the container. Encourage your children to write down something they are grateful for at any point in time and place the slip in the container (non writers can draw pictures instead of writing). You may want to encourage them to create a slip any time they are excited about something. (“That would be a great thing to put in the gratitude jar, wouldn’t it?!) Be sure and place slips in the jar as well. Don’t be afraid to put some unusual slips in the box about gratitude for things that seem negative, but in which you saw something to be grateful. Periodically take all of the slips out of the jar and read them to the entire family. End the time thanking God for His blessings.
- Facts in Five Gratitude Game. Draw grids that are 5×5 on a sheet of paper for each person. Pull out those scrabble tiles or make little slips of paper with a letter of the alphabet on each. Going down the left side of the grid, write categories of things for which you can be grateful. For example: objects, people, places, food, books. Along the top of the grid, write the five letters pulled from the pile. Set the timer for three to five minutes (depending on the age and abilities of your children). At the word “go”,everyone is to fill in as many boxes on the grid as possible…. for example in the space where “object” and the letter “B” intersect, someone may write the word bike, while someone else might use the word Bible. The winner is the person with the most spaces filled in. (Many kids absolutely love this game, so you may want to be prepared with extra grids and lots of categories.)
- This website has a lot of great gratitude printables for activities including a gratitude scavenger hunt. (Please note that any of these links do not serve as an endorsement of the sites as an entirety or their creators, merely an acknowledgement that these are a few great ideas you can use. The sites and their creators may indeed be fine, but we did not take the time to deeply research them.)
- This website has some printable gratitude conversation starters. These often work well at meals with unfamiliar or quiet relatives to get the conversation going or just for your own family dinner.
- This website has a cute gratitude game using pick up sticks.
- Ask to join our Parenting Like Hannah Facebook Community and get our daily gratitude discussion prompts during the month of November.
Teach your kids to be consistently and constantly grateful. It’s how God created them to be.