6 Big-Hearted Ways to Practice Gratitude Year Round By: Sarah Aadland

We are happy to partner with Doing Good Together for our We Can Give Back Campaign.  Family volunteering and giving back starts at home in the heart.  Sarah Aadland –a primary force of Doing Good Together’s Big-hearted Families– has some great ideas for your family to foster that mindset. 

And don’t forget to leave a comment in our Growing a Volunteering Family Post about how you have served your community as a family.  When you enter a comment, you will be entered to win a Christmas Basket.

This time of year offers a very conflicted message about gratitude.

On the one hand, Thanksgiving is this bright, shiny, ready-made opportunity to celebrate the abundance in our lives. Soon, at family gatherings all over the country, loved ones will be counting their blessings as part of the pre-dinner roll call.

On the other hand, as Thanksgiving draws near, we feel compelled to start another list: the holiday wish list. No matter how kind-hearted we are, or how grown up we are, this activity gives us a huge case of the gimmes.

It’s an unfortunate juxtaposition, especially considering the latest research. Gratitude is a sure path to happiness, much more so than anything on that other list. 

Here are 6 tips to help your family launch a gratitude practice that will make this year’s holidays shine – and perhaps carry one long after those gifts are unwrapped.

  1. Gratitude book listRead: Our 5 Stories to Inspire Gratitude will help you start the conversation.
  2. Count: Try our simple Help the Hunger Month Make a daily habit of counting something you are thankful for (shoes, snacks, pillows, etc.) and putting that number of coins in an empty bowl at your family dinner table. Then donate the funds to a poverty relief organization.
  3. Table Talk: Check out our printable Pithy Placemats for a simple way to inspire big-hearted dinner conversation with your littlest family members. Or check out our other projects to start big-hearted conversations.
  4. Create: If your family is a fan of simple crafts, make a Gratitude Garland, Garden, or Tree to visually collect the many things, great and small, that make you thankful.
  5. Write: A simple, sincere thank you will brighten the day of someone who has done you a kindness. Plus, it gives you a small, defined amount of time to really focus on your gratitude. Pay particular attention to those easily over-looked people in your lives, like the particularly helpful cashier, your bus driver, or the waste disposal team in your neighborhood.
  6. Give: Temper the gimmes with generosity, not just during the holidays but all year round. Visit Doing Good Together™ to find our extensive list of service projects and kindness activities to find the perfect way to start your family’s tradition of service.

I speak from experience. I stumbled upon Doing Good Together™ (DGT) when my daughters were just four and two-years-old (they’re nine and seven now, with a three-year-old brother!). My family has essentially been a guinea pig, testing projects and trying out conversation starters every week for years.

Because of this, being a helper has become second nature to both of my daughters (my three-year-old son remains a wild card, we’re working on him!)

My daughters initiate their favorite projects when the mood strikes. They leave gifts for our mail carrier and write thank you cards for their servers at restaurants. When they hear of an injustice, whether it involves a friend at school or a country thousands of miles away, they passionately look for a way to make a difference.

Doing Good Together is not simply a nonprofit with useful tools. It’s the perfect way to launch a gratitude practice full of service, kindness, and intentionality. I’m excited to invite everyone in the Family Fun Twin Cities community to join the cause. 

Sarah Aadland, MPP, Directs DGT’s Big-Hearted Families™ Program and writes about her family’s kindness practice on the organization’s blog.


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