Thankful Tree: A Simple Way to Help Our Families Experience Gratitude

My friend offered a suggestion of how to increase gratitude in our families. I love it so much I need to share with all you Boulder Families! I posted recently about a lecture I attended on the Friends’ School Year Long Gratitude Project, but here I am again coming back to the concept. Maybe it is just that it is November and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. But it could just be that I so need the reminder to have gratitude. With all the amazing things in my life I still get overwhelmed and feel like the world is a heavy burden instead of seeing the joy in my life.  Here is a simple way to increase our gratitude on a regular basis: Create a Thankful Tree!

To create your Thankful/Grateful/Gratitude Tree you simply need to find a location in your home where you can put it up. This needs to be a sold vertical space. You need to find some brown paper [could be grocery bags, stuffing from a package, etc…], and twist it into a tree shape with branches and all. Then you cut out some leaves in whatever colors you like. My friend used the same colors, but varied the shapes. This is your creative process!

Then every evening the whole family can add something they are grateful for. In the beginning smaller children will have a tough time coming up with anything. Plan to do some role modeling until they get it. For small children they can draw instead of write or you can be their scribe. It does not matter how it gets on the leaves, it’s the gratitude that matters most.

Another friend took her kids [my son too] one morning to buy breakfast sandwiches and hand them out to the homeless people at the Boulder Public Library. It was a cool morning and at first the kids were nervous, but then they started in their own way to take part in sharing their bounty with others. They were able to see how a small act of kindness can go a long way. They were also able in the smallest way to see how much they have to be grateful for.

I would love to hear how your families offer gratitude and build it in as a value in your lives. It seems so important and yet at times tough to slow down enough to really feel gratitude deeply.

Raising Happiness: It’s easier than we think!

Friends’ School Photo

I have to let you know about a project a local private school, Friends’ School, has undertaken called, The Gratitude Project. They are spending the year learning about how gratitude impacts learning. I love this! On 10/18 they brought in well known speaker Christine Carter to speak about a topic near and dear to her heart, Raising Happiness. She literally talked about how we could raise happier children. I was excited! I needed the 411 on this badly!

Her first take home message was quit equating success with happiness! Success does not lead to happiness. We all know the very successful people who are NOT happy. Instead she proposes that happiness leads to success. Do what you love and the success will follow. At this point I took a deep breath and relaxed. I know this to be true. I know in my heart that this is the case yet I was always taught that success lead to happiness. I now know to help instill this in my children: Happiness Leads To Success!

Dr. Carter outlined the individual qualities that lead to success in life and school:

  • Social Intelligence [I think this is similar to Emotional Intelligence]
  • Gratitude
  • Optimism
  • Curiosity
  • Grit [also known as resilience]
  • Self-control
  • Zest

Can we help ourselves and our children embody these qualities? Yes, we can! It take practice, but as we increase gratitude by noticing and then expressing this value it will increase our sense of self-worth and happiness.

A few ideas of how to foster gratitude:

  • At the dinner table ask each family member to say one thing they are grateful for. Role model this one for best success. Even the smallest members of the family can participate.
  • Ask about kindness. What is one kind thing someone did for you today? What is one kind thing you did for someone today?
  • Help others. Sign up to help at a soup kitchen or bring food to the homeless. A call to the homeless shelter or EFAA can help you make plans to help others.

Maybe you have some additional ideas of practices in your family that help each of us to embody the values of gratitude & happiness. Let us know!