As Thanksgiving approaches, we think about giving thanks – expressing our gratitude. Have you noticed that when you take stock of what you’re thankful for, you feel happier? Harvard professor and author of the book, “Happier”, Tal Ben-Shahar, explains that gratitude is one of the secrets to greater happiness. All of us will experience suffering at some point, and when we suffer through a crisis, it’s appropriate to feel sadness, anger and related emotions that we will need to work through. However, during less challenging times, there is always room to access greater happiness. Gratitude can play an important role.
Keeping a gratitude journal is a way to begin making practicing gratitude habitual. Research shows that taking time each day to write down a few things for which you’re grateful increases one’s healthy emotional and physical state. You can record anything- small things like a conversation you had or a good night’s rest, or more significant things like a positive person or situation in your life. You may find that you write many of the same things over and over- that’s ok and will help you not to take these things for granted. Conversely, you may be surprised by all the unexpected, happy, little moments throughout the day that come to mind when you take time to think about them.
It’s easy in the midst of the daily grind, when life feels stressful, to dismiss those moments that bring us a sense of happiness throughout our day- if only briefly. Practicing gratitude with intention helps bring these small things to the forefront of our minds- where they can lift our spirits.
What should keeping a gratitude journal look like? It’s up to you! A simple notebook or even your phone can work to take notes. Try and journal around the same time each day to create a habit. Write three to five things down each day.
Gratitude Can be A Family Affair. Teaching your child to practice gratitude is a wonderful gift that will help them learn how to find greater contentment in their lives. Keep a family gratitude journal. Sit down together to record what you each feel grateful for each day. You and your child will learn to appreciate all the ordinary but meaningful experiences we encounter daily.
Gratitude builds family and other relationships by helping us to consider all the ways someone shows us they care about us- small and great gestures alike. This helps us to respond in kind and prevents us from taking those who are important to us for granted. So, practice gratitude as a family and move toward greater happiness!