Most people associate the coming of the new year with change and desired growth. This is a good thing. It’s a time of reflection on our past year and dreams for the year to come. As you consider what kind of change and growth you’d like to find this year, I urge you to incorporate a gratitude practice into your goals.
Gratitude is one of those things that everyone knows is good but is sometimes hard to practice. This is especially true when life becomes stressful or hectic. The more you turn your focus to being grateful, the easier and more natural the practice becomes. There have been countless studies about the science behind gratitude, and they all come back to say the same thing – people who work towards incorporating gratitude into their lives are happier, healthier, and feel more fulfilled.
Make a gratitude jar
One easy way to incorporate the act of gratitude into your daily life is to use a gratitude jar. Don’t make this complicated. Literally go find a jar, right now, I’ll wait. A canning jar is fine, or a vase, or even that big plastic container that pickles come in, I won’t judge, and you shouldn’t either. Ideally, it should be clear so that you can see the slips of paper and all the many blessings and moments of gratitude that you have collected.
Find some paper and cut it into strips, colorful is fun but not required. Find a pen. Put your gratitude station where it’s easy to see and invite the family to capture moments of gratitude along with you, or even better, make writing down something you are grateful for a regular part of your day. Watch the gratitude jar fill!
Then, if you are having a hard time, or feeling down, take out one or two slips to read. These gentle reminders are often enough to shift your perspective and help you celebrate the good things in your life.
Our gratitude tree
A few years back I tried something like this for the first time. To make it special, I made a tree trunk out of paper and stuck it to the wall. Then, I cut out paper leaves and had my family write what they were grateful for on them every day at dinner time. The kids loved putting their leaves on the tree. Seeing our tree grow more and more leaves as the weeks passed.
When it was time to take the tree down, we collected the leaves and shared some of the things that we wrote. I can’t tell you how sweet it is to hear your kid share how they were grateful for a friend at school, or for a special treat shared by a sibling. It was a challenge to remember to fill out a leaf every day, but it was worth it!