November 2020 Gratitude Month Week 1: Grateful For Family
For the past five years I have been doing a daily gratitude list to help me with my high anxiety and have shared my list via my social media pages to help inspire others to do the same. Now, more than ever, I have found that gratitude has such a high power to bring hope, joy and serenity in times of despair. This month I would like to go over how gratitude in all areas of your life can help shift your perspective and boost your happiness levels.
This week I am going to dive deep into being grateful for your family. Our family, the good, bad and crazy members are all a vital support group for you. They provide you with love, care, sympathy words of kindness and sometimes valuable learning lessons. Family should be there to help you in times of need and in times of joy; however, some family members are better at this than others. It is good to know that they are all an important part of your life as learning lessons.
Take a moment and think about how each of your family members have supported you through your life. Write these moments down and appreciate them. It could be as small as picking you up from a soccer game to something big as helping pay for college. When you stop and pay attention there are many reasons why you appreciate your family. Here are a few reasons to put aside silly squabbles and instead show them just how much you appreciate them in your life.
The countless memories you have from knowing someone your entire life is a big bonus. There will be some good times, bad times, happy and sad times. Memories from childhood fun at family reunions to holiday get togethers can boost your happy meter. Your shared memories can be a true treasure for your heart and soul. I recently reconnected with my cousin, who isn’t on social media, to see how she and her boys are doing. Remembering all the times we spent together as kids was hilarious and we enjoyed the belly laughs and joy it brought to our hearts. Even though we live thousands of miles away, we can still be close.
When you are having a rough day or things just don’t seem to be going your way it can be hard to find anything positive. This is a great time to reach out to a family member who “gets” you and can understand, listen and/or give some sound support. Family will always have your back, it is key to know which family member would be best to reach out to though. If you want advice reach out to the one who will give you sound advice. If you want to just vent and not have some fix the issue you will know which family member is the best listener. Some will be better at allowing you to cry and others will be great at fixing a problem. Who will go on a hike with you to hash out what you are dealing with? Who will meet you for coffee or tea and discuss things? Create your list of who to call in these situations and remember it when that time comes.
The truth is your family will love you unconditionally and this is so important to remember on those rough days when you really feel like giving up. Your family will always have your back. Remember the family members who appreciate you for you. They know and love your quirkiness. They respect your viewpoint. They listen intently and love to discuss ideas with you. The family members who appreciate you for what you bring into their family are the members you want on your team when the going gets rough. Remember who they are and reach out to them often!
Part of growing up and expanding our horizons is an important part of being human. Sometimes we can get into tricky situations where we are not quite sure what to do. Should I sell my car and downsize? Should I refinance the house or wait? When we aren’t quite sure, it is always great to be able to reach out to a family member for some clear guidance. If you need some financial help, which one of your family members seems to have their ducks in a row with their finances? Reach out to them for guidance. Which member has kids the same age or close to your kids age to ask for parenting advice? Sometimes a friendly face and ear is all we need to listen to our situation and look at it from another viewpoint with some advice.
Of course, not all families are sunshine and rainbows. There may be some toxicity in the mix. Know what your heart and soul can tolerate and set your boundaries if you have a family member who tends to be an energy vampire in your life. Many of us have lost family members this year, either to COVID-19 or other health issues. If you are grieving, find another family member who can commiserate. My cousin, for example, lost her dad several years ago so when my mom passed away this summer she was a big support for me.
The best laughter comes from those childhood memories, inside family jokes, family game nights or movie nights. Every time our family does come together we play board games or card games and the amount of laughter that ensues always brings a warm feeling to my heart. Those family bonds and memories of past times is a special bond that will last a lifetime. So, this holiday season, take time to create some laughter in your family. If you are doing virtual Thanksgiving, have everyone come ready with their favorite joke or riddle. Do a karaoke night virtually and see who has the best lip sync song contest. Have everyone dress silly and see who is the craziest.
Here are some more ways to promote gratitude within your family, especially if you have kids. It is so important to remind them that it doesn’t do any good worrying about what is going wrong in our lives, but to be grateful for all that is going well in our lives. Here is how you can do that:
Share Your Daily Gratitudes
This is a great practice to begin with your family. You can do it in the morning during breakfast, at night during dinner or before bedtime. Find what works well with your family, but it is a great way to be thankful for the little things that happen during the day. Have each family member think of three things they are grateful for and either write them, draw them or tell you about them. This practice will build connection and bonding within the family as well as helps each family member build their “positivity/gratitude muscle.” You may have to set some “rules” that they can only be thankful for a video game once. Then they need to come up with other things they are grateful for. Have them think back through their day and share something that made them smile or feel really good. It could be that their friend said a funny joke at school. Or they like their new jeans. They could even be grateful for comfy PJ pants that no one sees because they are virtual school.
Create a Gratitude Jar or Board
This is a fun tradition to start at the beginning of the year. Place a washed out pickle jar or sauce jar on the counter and a stack of paper. Each week have everyone write down something they were grateful for or something amazing that happened to them or the family and drop it in the jar. Then at either Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years read all the gratitudes in the jar. Reading them to the whole family will bring back memories and even moments they may have forgotten but meant a lot to another family member. This is a great way to get the whole family to reflect on the blessings of the year.
You can do the same thing with a bulletin board. The visual of gratitude will be seen each day as a simple reminder that little things can mean a lot. Simply tack notes up for things you are thankful for. One note per person per week is sufficient. When everyone sees the board filling up it is fun to read through the list to remember what went right that week versus what went wrong.
Make “Huggie Notes” at Thanksgiving
This is an easy and fun activity to do at Thanksgiving, Christmas or anytime your family gets together. This year may look a little different because of COVID, so if you aren’t all getting together, you may want to do some of these up ahead of time and either email or snail mail them to the recipients. Basically, you will take an oversized place card and place their name on the front. On the back, have everyone write one word or a sentence stating something they appreciate about the person. These are great keepsakes that provide a nice boost to everyone, especially during this rough year. If you are mailing them out, have the recipient wait to open them until everyone else can open and read them aloud. If you are together at the dinner table, have pens for everyone and have them pass their notecard to the right and start writing about the person on your left. When you get your card back it is time to read them either aloud or to yourself. These little “huggie notes” are a great way to tell those you love, but don’t see so often, how much you appreciate them.
Create and Maintain a Gratitude Journal
This can be made into a crafty thing for the kids to do too, or you can purchase pre-made journals in bulk to hand out to everyone. The kids can take paper and cut them into fun shapes, staple them together and use construction paper for the binder to make a journal. Have them start with 30 pages and see if they can write in them every day. If they do, invest in a notebook or actual journal for them to use on a daily basis. All they need to do is think of three things that made them happy that day, like their cat, yummy lunch, play time or recess. If your kids are young and don’t like to write, have them draw pictures or tell you what they were grateful for that day. Elementary aged kids can practice their writing skills and jot a few words down and teenagers can expand on what really made their joy meter pop.
I started a gratitude journal with my son when he was 8 and having a rough time at school and wasn’t sleeping well. We would do it right before he went to bed so he could go to sleep with happy thoughts and not sad thoughts. He would draw or tell me about the things he was grateful for. I write my daily gratitudes down in my calendar and at the end of the day I post it on my social media. I have received so many compliments on them as well as inspiring others to do the same. This is a great technique to use if you have anxiety and depression. It will bring you into the present moment and stop that brain worrying about the future (anxiety) and that brain that lives in the past (depression). You could start a daily texting of “ 3 Good Things” with your friends or family this month.
Give to Others
One of the best ways and easiest to promote more gratitude in our families is to serve others. During the holiday season there are so many opportunities to help in your community. From collecting food for food banks, to adopting a family during the holidays to donating clothes and toys to families in need. This year we may see more of a need than any year before due to the pandemic and loss of jobs. See what you and your family can do this holiday season to spread some joy and give to others in need. When we can reach out to help others it shows our kids compassion, but can also have them realize how to appreciate all they have. It could be as simple as buying a couple of boxes of holiday cards and having your children write a quick note or draw a picture and then drop them off at an assisted living complex for those that cannot be with their families to putting together bags of socks, toiletries, crackers and water to hand out to the homeless while at a stop light.
When we can promote the attitude of gratitude it can change our lives and the lives we touch. It is such a great way to incorporate family to create a life-long positive impact.
What will you do this November to promote more gratitude in your life?