Gratitude becomes quite a buzzword come November, at least here in the states! Thanksgiving, cooler weather, and nearing the end of a year all work together inviting us into a space of reflection about what we are thankful for. Whatever our position in life, there is something we are grateful for, that makes this particular time in our lives meaningful and special. Engaging in gratitude also reminds us that we did not get here alone, that there has been a village of people that have stepped into our lives to walk with us, encourage us along, or even force us in a different direction altogether when we needed the push. Our definition for Gratitude—this month’s character trait—is: being thankful and showing appreciation for those in our lives and for what we have and receive.
And while this time of year spotlights gratitude, take is a reminder to cultivate this attitude all year long! In other words, like our catch phrase says, Say thank you as much as possible.
Have you ever considered the relationship of wonder to gratitude?? GK Chesterton associates the two in his quote, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Take a moment to ponder on that. Happiness x Wonder = Gratitude. In moments of happiness, when we allow ourselves the space to be in awe of our position, what results? A sense of thankfulness for our lot in life, for where we are despite all the obstacles that could have prevented us, and that we could not have done it on our own. When really engaged in thankfulness, doesn’t it just overwhelm your being with the warm fuzzies?! That good feeling motivates us to do it more often, and as such with good things, gratitude begets gratitude. As the sun sets earlier, trade your time basking in the sun for basking in thankfulness and you’ll be warm all winter long.
So how to we keep the good feeling going, or start cultivating it from the start? To foster character within ourselves and our children, below you will find some questions and activities to promote gratitude around your home.
- Make a list of all the people and organizations you are thankful for—think teachers, healthcare workers, law enforcement, local businesses, mail carriers, etc. Many have stepped it up during these couple years and found creative ways to still meet the needs of those they serve. Find ways to acknowledge them and show your gratitude. Write notes, makes signs, donate, buy gift cards or holiday gifts from local businesses, etc. Share your ideas in the comments below!
- Cut out complaining. Make it a game. For every complaint make you must think of two things you are grateful for. This is an excellent way to forge an Attitude of Gratitude (also a good game name). Gratitude must be intentional, it will not necessarily come naturally.
- Write “thank you” notes. When we take the time to write out our appreciation, it challenges us to truly reflect on what was done for us or given to us.
- Share something you are grateful for every day. Maybe make a “Blessing Board” or have a jar with notepaper and a pen nearby to encourage your family to write down things they are thankful for. Share them at mealtimes, in the car, at bedtime, or whenever. Challenge your family to think of something different each day.
- Do something for someone in need. Volunteer, make a meal for a neighbor, donate coats or blankets or toys for tots.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Just like writing a note causes you to pause and reflect, cultivating a grateful heart can be as simple as writing down what you are thankful for. The best thing about a journal is that you can always read back through it and be reminded. If your child is too young for a journal, consider other fun ways to document—a construction paper turkey with the feathers holding one thing each that they are grateful for?
- Challenge yourself and your family to “say thank you as much as possible”. Find fun ways to make gratitude a habit. Take it a step further—be specific in your thanks (as well as sincere), “Thank you for taking out the trash”, etc.
Another way to keep this character trait of the month top of mind is to print and hang our Gratitude poster! Click here to download.
Want more resources? Read Teaching Character Through Literature: Gratitude.