Growing gratitude: 8 ways to practice giving thanks all year ’round

January 26, 2016

Children and parents are happier and healthier when gratitude becomes a part of everyday life, research finds. So why not nurture it?

Thanksgiving, a holiday mostly known for piled high plates of food, is also our national day of gratitude. Unfortunately, in relegating thankfulness to one day of the year, we’re missing out on the benefits of this miraculous emotion.

Being grateful has been shown to make adults and children happier and healthier. Studies by psychologist Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, confirm that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. Grateful people are healthier with fewer aches and pains. They are reportedly more generous, social, and empathic and less materialistic. Being grateful helps people overcome disappointment and trauma and reduces stress and aggression. And to top it off, grateful people reportedly sleep better. Who doesn’t want more of that in their lives?

The great thing about gratitude is you can learn it, practice it, share it, and perhaps most importantly as a parent — cultivate it in your child. Try adding some of these activities into your daily life to boost your own gratitude and show your kids how it’s done. Modeling it for them is the best way to teach them. Plus, your kids can join you in many of these activities and create their own habits of gratefulness sooner rather than later. They’ll thank you for it… one day.

Tried-and-true gratitude journal

Most of us have heard of a gratitude journal. They work for young kids and adults. They may not work as well for tweens and teens trying to stretch their wings and revel in their independence.

People are often intimidated by the idea of a daily journal. Don’t be. Each entry can be short and sweet. Write two or three things you’re grateful for; they don’t even have to be sentences! You can even do it on your computer or tablet. (There are apps for that too). Try not to repeat yourself at least for a month! And guess what — being grateful for “little” things, such as rain or being able to see, count!


Prompted journal

If coming up with things off the top of your head stumps you or your child, try this: Have a jar full of slips of papers with questions such as these to prompt your thanking.

Name three things that make you happy.
Think of something you used today that other people may take for granted.
Name someone you know who makes your life better.
What do you appreciate that you have that others don’t?
What do you appreciate that costs no money?
What’s something about yourself that makes you feel unique?
What makes you feel happy?
Recall something that happened today that made you smile.

The thank-you jar

Write your thank-yous and appreciations on s