"In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy." Brother David Steindl-Rast

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Family Practice

Today I am grateful for our historic downtown, for sunshine, for boots to wear.

One more residual Thanksgiving post to write. This one includes an idea you may want to incorporate with your family on a more regular basis than my family has. We resurrected a gratitude practice we had attempted as a family for a few months a couple years ago. I called it the "Valentine Vessel of Gratitude" and I blogged about it here and here in the summer of 2012.

On Thanksgiving Day the four of us-my husband, stepdaughter, son, and I-each put a few things we are grateful for on slips of paper and put them in our little bowl that we had used prior. I needed to rinse it off because it had gathered dust. We used it a few times back on our first attempt, but usually at my encouragement. It was nice when we were able to use it and share what we had written, but it never really caught on.  I was a little disappointed in that, but I knew I couldn't try too hard to get the others to write things down regularly. As it did for me, it has to come to them in it's own way and in it's own time.

But it was nice to bring it back for Thanksgiving anyway. No one fought doing it. No one struggled to come up with things to say. No one balked at sharing what had been collectively written before we began eating. Family came up in more ways than one. Sam, our almost-teen, focused mostly on things directly impacting him-like football pads and wrestling mats. Just like I would anticipate an adolescent doing. I may suggest using it again at Christmas, but mostly I will just keep living my own gratitude practice and walking the walk.

If you think this idea might work for your family, I encourage you to give it a try. There are many variations on the idea as well. Be creative. One meal a day (or week) each person at the table could share a couple of good things about their day or week, or you could do the same before putting young children to bed. You may prefer to use phrases like "What did you like about today?" or "What went well today?" Create your own family tradition and reap the benefits that can come with it.

I wonder what my family and others think of me at times. I really like to talk about, and obviously write about, gratitude. I am amazed by the difference gratitude practice has made in my life. I like encouraging others to give it a whirl, but I also know that I can't make anyone try it. I can only do my thing and share my story.

And I can be content in the fact that I am a better mother, stepmother, spouse, sister, daughter, friend, recovering alcoholic, counselor, runner, writer, and person because of my gratitude practice. That can't help but rub off on the people around me.

If you are already actively practicing gratitude, keep it up! If you would like to give it a try, start simple and start today. It works if we work at it.

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