With the holidays on the horizon, fostering an atmosphere of gratitude is especially important. Gratitude or thankfulness shouldn’t be a one-time experience. Research shows that practicing gratitude increases levels of happiness and optimism, improves sleep and decreases stress, depression and aggression. Additionally, gratitude can increase positive traits like self-esteem and resilience.

Everyone, especially kids, can benefit from these things. Fostering gratitude in your family can also lead to a more positive and harmonious household.

If you’re ready to cultivate gratitude in your family, here are some practical steps you can take with your family:

  1. Lead by Example: Start by showing gratitude yourself. Express appreciation for the things others do for you, and be vocal about what you’re thankful for. Let your kids hear you model gratitude.

  2. Start a Gratitude Journal: Encourage each family member to keep a gratitude journal. This can be a notebook or a digital document where they write down things they are grateful for each day. You can even create a family gratitude journal, poster or jar where you all contribute things you are grateful for.

  3. Create a Gratitude Ritual: Establish a daily or weekly ritual where everyone shares something they are grateful for. This could be during mealtime or before bedtime.

  4. Practice Mindfulness: Encourage your family to be present and notice things in the moment. This can help them appreciate small gifts and blessings they might otherwise overlook.

  5. Celebrate Achievements: Celebrate small wins and accomplishments like reading a few pages of a book or making a basket while shooting hoops. Acknowledge efforts and achievements, no matter how minor.

  6. Encourage Acts of Kindness: Promote acts of kindness within the family and towards others. It could be as simple as helping with chores or showing kindness to a neighbor. Acts of kindness toward strangers can be a fun challenge for kids to participate in!

  7. Volunteer Together: Participate in community service or volunteer activities as a family. Serving together is a great way to engage with people and grow in gratitude. This can help your family gain perspective and appreciate the people or places around them.

  8. Limit Possessions: Encourage experiences over material possessions. Teach your family to value relationships, experiences and memories over acquiring things. Celebrate the time you have with people and the experiences you have.

  9. Reflect on Challenges: When faced with difficulties, chat about the lessons you learned from the situation. Talk about what there is to be grateful for, even in difficult seasons.

  10. Express Appreciation Verbally and Non-Verbally: Say “thank you” often. And encourage people to say, “You’re welcome.” Doing so is a way to highlight good things and how they make you feel. Sincerely acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of each family member, whether they are 1 or 101.

  11. Create a Gratitude Jar: Have a jar where family members can drop notes expressing gratitude. Read them together weekly or at the end of each month.

  12. Share Positive News and Stories: We hear a lot of negative things throughout the day. Be intentional about sharing positive news stories, inspiring quotes or books that make people happy.

  13. Encourage Empathy: Teach your family to consider the feelings and perspectives of others in various situations. This can help them appreciate the efforts and experiences of those around them and increase kindness.

  14. Practice Patience and Understanding: It’s easy to lose patience with our family members. Encourage your family to be patient with each other and to understand that everyone is doing their best. It helps to slow down, take a breath and say, “We’re all doing our best.” This helps retrain your brain to be more patient and understanding.

  15. Celebrate Traditions and Special Occasions: Use holidays, birthdays and other special occasions as opportunities to express gratitude and celebrate your family. These don’t have to be big things, either. Vanilla Cupcake Day is a worthy celebration (hint: it’s on November 10!)

Remember, fostering gratitude is an ongoing process that requires consistency and patience. By making gratitude a part of your family culture, you can create a more positive and appreciative environment for your whole family.