I love this time of year. I’ve always had a hard time answering the question, “Which is your favorite season?”, because there is something that I love about each one of them! The first snowfall of winter with big, puffy, marshmallow-like snowflakes falling slowly to land on our noses and hands before melting against our body heat…the first colorful spring flowers popping up out of the ground to remind us that we (and the earth) are so alive…the warmth of the summer sunshine and trees bursting with leaves and the feeling of cool water when you get the chance to swim… But now that we have just witnessed that amazing transition of leaves from green to brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows, I am feeling especially connected to nature and I think if someone asked me the question today, I would probably say that fall is my new favorite. (Of course, as more and more leaves fall to the ground and the bare trees are a foreshadowing of the winter months to come, I’m starting to feel a little different… )
But over the past month where leaves were changing where we live, I have taken countless moments to stop and take a deep breath and look up at the colorful leaves contrasted against the bluest of blue skies and just feel so incredibly thankful. Thankful for this beautiful earth that we live on. Thankful for the warm fall temperature and opportunities to spend time outdoors. Thankful for the sound of my kids screaming and giggling with glee as they run, jump, and bury themselves in a leaf pile that they created together. Just plain thankful for life. Can it get any better?
So while I am on this thankfulness high, I wanted to share a few ways that cultivating an attitude of gratitude has shifted my mood and ultimately changed my life. Here are some examples that came to mind about how we are using gratitude in our family and our home:
- Setting a good example and teaching our kids to be thankful for all of the blessings in their life – Throughout the day, find ways to weave it into the conversation with little comments like, “Thank goodness our electricity is working today so that we can stay warm on such a cold day!” or “Wow, I have so many clothes to choose from this morning that I’m having a hard time deciding what to wear!” These might sound silly to say out loud but it helps to train your child’s brain to think in this way.
- Being thankful as a family – Whatever your religious affiliation or feelings of spirituality, there is a way to weave gratitude into your family mealtime tradition. Last fall, we started reading a passage from “A Grateful Heart: 365 Ways to Give Thanks at Mealtime”, by M. J. Ryan, at dinner together every night. We then take a chance to reflect on the prayer that we just read and share what we are each thankful for that day. You would be surprised with what a four or six year old can come up with. Some nights it is pretty profound!
- Creating a “love list” – When I am having a hard time with someone in my life – a child, my husband, a parent, a friend – I sit down with a piece of paper and write down three things that I am grateful for or that I love about that person. For example, when one of my kids is really getting on my nerves for some reason and I just can’t seem to cut them a break, I sit down and make a list of the things that I love about them as a person. Not the way that they might be acting that day but who they really are at the core of their being. Such as…
1. I love the “It looks like you need one of these” hugs that I get from my son.
2. I am grateful for the days that I get to spend with my youngest son because they will be gone soon.
3. I love how my oldest son is constantly asking what he can do to help.
You get the idea. This reminds me that we are just in a transient phase and that I can’t take them – or our time together – for granted.
- Shifting gears from worry to wonder – When I start to worry if/when something might go wrong – “the school bus is 5 minutes late…What if they had an accident? What if my son missed the bus?…Where are they?!” – I try to shift gears in my brain and think about what I am grateful for in my life. For example, while waiting for the school bus at the end of the driveway, I might look around and notice something in nature that I hadn’t noticed before. This helps me to see the goodness in life instead of worrying about the bad things that could happen.
- Changing my perspective – I recently read a parenting post that challenged me to stop and write down 10 things that I am grateful for as an experiment to see how it made me feel and if my mood changed at all. At first, I ignored that bit of homework and just kept on skimming the post without stopping but then it went on to say “no wait, actually stop for a moment and do this”. So I put down the iPad and got out a pen and paper and came up with my list. I was amazed at how easy it was and how quickly I could write down 10 things that I was grateful for in my life. And the result was that I immediately felt better about life and was in a happy mood! Here is my list:
1. My husband
2. Our kids
4. Local or homegrown food
7. Clean water
8. Our house
10. Wool socks
So, while this is a wonderful and magical time of year (and shouldn’t be skipped over to start decorating for Christmas the day after Halloween, in my opinion!), instead of making Thanksgiving a once-a-year holiday, why not make it a daily practice!
What are you grateful for today?