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

Sisters hugging and showing kindness

In November of 2014, we were 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 — offered these great ideas for your family to foster that mindset and practice gratitude activities all year long.

We think these ideas prompt family quality time, foster positive emotions and add perspective to family fun time. They are worth revisiting every November.

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.

Six Tips to Practice Gratitude with Doing Good Together

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. Read: Our 5 Stories to Inspire a Sense of Gratitude will help kids to start the conversation.
  2. Count: Try our simple Help the Hunger Month rituals. 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 make a donation of the funds to a poverty relief organization.
  3. Table Talk: Check out our printable Pithy Placemats for a simple way to inspire empathy with 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, instead of a written gratitude list or gratitude jar, create a fun Gratitude Garland, Gratitude Garden, or Gratitude 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 at a young age.

FFTC Adds: These are great activities to do around the dinner table but could also be done as part of a bedtime routine. As you children become teens, gift them with a notebook, fun pens (and maybe stickers) where they can record their gratitude meditation in a personal or shared family gratitude journal.

These Ideas Can Help Change Your Family Perspective

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, Directed DGT’s Big-Hearted Families™ Program and writes about her family’s kindness practice and fostering an attitude of gratitude on The Big-Heart Families Blog. Sign up for emails to receive prompts, reflections and more.

The Emerging Science of Raising Grateful People

Fostering the feeling of gratitude isn’t just about raising nicer children. More and more studies are showing the benefits of gratitude on a person’s overall well-being.

  1. The Greater Good Science Center shares how research is beginning to show a correlation between gratitude and improved mental health.
  2. The Raising Grateful Children Project at UNC Chapel Hill has been studying what parents do to teach children about gratitude and whether parents can learn these skills through an online program they created.

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2 thoughts on “6 Big-Hearted Ways to Practice Gratitude Year Round by: Sarah Aadland”

  1. Thank you for these ideas. We love playing gratitude games during dinner. These fun gratitude activities can be gentle reminders to both kids and adults that our behavior reflects our attitude.

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