Gratitude is a virtue that has received a lot of attention from researchers in the past decade or thereabouts.
It seems as though the most sure-fire way for people to become happier is to be grateful.
And because gratitude is such a simple concept for most people to understand (and because most people are fairly grateful anyway), it is an easy principle to practice in family life to improve everyone’s wellbeing, and make our families happier.
There’s even a day set aside internationally aimed at encouraging people to reflect on the many amazing things in their lives and promote wellbeing by being thankful.
Established in Hawaii, World Gratitude Day has been running for more than 50 years and is a formal day to express gratitude and appreciation for the many wonderful things in our world.
So how can gratitude make your family happier?
Well, it works in two ways. People who are grateful are happier, and people who are happier are more grateful. I think it was the Dalai Lama who said the secret to being happy is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.
There are a few things that get in the way of us being grateful. Researchers have tried to uncover these and the answer is, at least in part, an attitude of entitlement and a focus on materialism.
For example, one study showed that teenagers who believed that success and happiness comes from buying and having things, that is, more materialistic teens, were found to have lower school results, more depression and a more negative outlook on life, and their relationships were also poorer. Ouch!
Nurturing a habit of gratitude really does make a difference. It makes people feel secure, happy, loved and – grateful.
So if we want to grow gratitude and stamp out ingratitude in our home there a lot of different ways we can promote an attitude of gratitude.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Model grateful behaviour
Your children will follow what you do so look for opportunities to say thank you. Pay particular attention to what your children do that you appreciate and tell them, describe what they’ve done and how it made you feel.
Have conversations about grateful things
Consider making it a daily habit to share the good things that happened during the day.
Create a gratitude tree
Our family once wrote down things we were grateful for on labels and tied them to a tree, it was a terrific visual reminder of all the things we were grateful for.
Carry a gratitude rock
To help keep you grounded, every time you touch the rock, you will be reminded of all the things you are grateful for.
Keep a gratitude diary or journal
Many studies of gratitude have used a gratitude diary to have people record what they’re grateful for, and over time they usually do become happier. There’s research that says we only need to do this once a week, other research says it should be three times a day, others are somewhere in between that, but what it boils down to is that people are different but that expressing gratitude has positive effects whether you choose to do it every single day or once a week.