By Christina Katz
Gratitude fills us up. A little inner appreciation helps us stop grasping at things outside of ourselves for sustenance and satisfaction. A thankful attitude strengthens relationships, reduces stress, improves health, and helps us feel happier in every moment of any day.
But maybe your family has fallen out of the positive habit of noticing what they appreciate. Gratitude isn’t automatic, after all. But it is a habit you can practice in a few simple steps. Follow these five steps to get back in the gratitude groove.
Step One: Put the kibosh on complaining, criticizing, or gossiping for a specified amount of time like one week or even a whole month. Discuss the definitions of each of these three words with your family. Then playfully bust each other when one of you breaks a rule. You will, and that’s okay. Build awareness of negative habits rather than shaming, and then redirect attention in a more positive direction.
Step Two: Be sure to explain that having legitimate needs and expressing those needs is encouraged and expected. No family member should feel like they can’t ask for what they legitimately need. If negative communication patterns persist, try interrupting them with the question, “What do you need right now?” You might be surprised to discover that meeting basic needs helps everyone shift into a more positive attitude. And don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “What do I need?” Once every family member is getting needs met, or at least getting needs on a schedule to be met, gratitude flows in.
Step Three: Recognize what you feel grateful for throughout the day. This can become a new habit if you are usually so busy you are just trying to keep up with everyone’s busy schedules. Try to pause several times a day when you feel happy and discover the source, so you can model the habit for the rest of your family.
Step Four: Acknowledge something you feel grateful about by writing it down or saying it aloud to someone else. Or do both. Gratitude becomes more positive when appreciated by you and others.
Step Five: After you recognize and acknowledge something to feel grateful for, sit with it for at least a count of ten. Make your gratitude process at least as long as several deep breaths. This way you make something positive a little bigger and start to reap the benefits of your gratitude practice immediately. And who doesn’t want to be happier right now?
19 Daily Gratitude Techniques
Still need more help? Try these techniques until they become habits.
Every day, look for ways you can deepen your appreciation for everyday life. When you do this with conviction, you set a good example for the rest of the family.
1. Find something around you right now to appreciate. Look around the room. What do you see, smell, hear, taste or feel? Our senses help us connect with our appreciation.
2. Notice how your young children set an example of spontaneous gratitude and then follow their leads. Approach your day through a child’s eyes.
3. Post reminders of things you appreciate about family members on sticky notes. Leave a message on the coffee pot for your spouse. Put a note in with lunch. Get in the habit of leaving little appreciation notes on go-to screens throughout the house.
Keep an ongoing list of something you are grateful for right now.
4. Keep an ongoing list of something you are grateful for right now. Use the notes app in your smart phone to keep track or keep a memo pad in your purse.
5. Write something you appreciated from earlier in the day on the calendar as the sun sets each day. Then you can look back at your calendar in the future and remember the month fondly.
6. Take a moment to recollect what inspires awe in you whether changing seasons, a person who lifts you up, or someone who is really good at what they do. Don’t let a day go by without checking in with these inspiring touchstones.
7. Appreciate mistakes you make today. Tell your children stories of how bouncing back from misjudgments makes you a more humble person, who is not afraid to be human.
8. Say something kind to someone and mean it. Tell folks what you admire about them. If you like what a person is wearing, say so. If this person is always stylish, compliment them for it.
9. Discuss lessons learned in the past. Everyone goes through challenges in life. Don’t try to forget yours. Turn them into a list of character-building stories about your life.
10. Appreciate something with another person. Remarking, “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” helps you both focus on the positive and forget distracting thoughts.
11. Don’t keep good news to yourself. Notice good service and offer feedback about it before you forget. If you can’t get your hands on a comment card, ask to speak to a manager and report good employees.
12. At a weekend meal, ask everyone to share best moments of the week. You can do this around the dinner table or at tuck-in time. Even once a week is better than never. If kids are feeling down, ask for a positive and a negative to balance out all the feelings.
Thank someone daily for something no matter how small.
13. Thank someone daily for something no matter how small. If you want your kids to be more grateful, thank them for things you appreciate. Gratitude begets gratitude.
14. Appreciate nature and the earth. Where would you be without them? Stop to smell a beautiful flower or pick up a pretty stone to take home and put on your dresser or on a bookshelf.
15. In moments that are hard, appreciate the opportunity to grow in character, even if you don’t like what is happening. Sometimes in life, we have to take our medicine.
16. Always try to be as present as possible whether interacting with others, whether strangers or family members. Put your phone down or stop what you are doing. Be attentive, not distracted.
17. Find a cause that is important to you and contribute time, money or energy. Remember that there is no perfect way to do this. Whatever you can do, let it be enough. Then be sure to share the experience with your kids.
Practice self-kindness with yourself so you can offer kindness to others.
18. Accept a compliment from someone else, whenever one is offered. Stop, smile, and say thank you. Practice self-kindness with yourself so you can offer kindness to others.
19. Use the calendar on your phone to alert you to pause for a moment and find something to feel grateful about. Add it to your gratitude list or just relax for a minute and savor the moment.
Author, journalist and writing coach Christina Katz flexes her happy muscles daily by stopping and appreciating the little things as well as the people around her.