I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz lately about how transformative gratitude can be for your psyche. Studies are cropping up everywhere showing that being intentional about thankful has huge health benefits, from better sleep to less anxiety to rewiring your brain for positivity. And it even works with kids.
So, last month, I decided to start a gratitude journal with my daughter. After just a few days, I noticed a big improvement in my daughter’s attitude. In fact, one night she told me, very simply, “I’m so glad we’re doing this. It makes me happy.”
And no, I hadn’t pitched her on all the research about how that’s exactly the point of the exercise. She came to that feeling all on her own.
If you’ve been thinking about trying out a gratitude journal, either for yourself or with your kids (and I totally suggest you do!), I have 3 easy tips that can help you get started.
At top: free printable gratitude journal pages | The Artisan Life
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1. Write it all down.
You can practice gratitude mentally, but it’s really inspiring and fun to flip back through a journal to see all that you were thankful for — like those fuzzy slippers on a snowy day, or for dessert for dinner that one night when there wasn’t much food in the fridge.
Plus, there’s also something about writing it all down that really cements the positive thoughts in your brain.
I really like The One-Minute Gratitude Journal by Brenda Nathan, which guides you through different categories. It’s an especially great journal for parents who are trying this out with younger children, and acting as the record keeper.
But, I also found some really cool free printable gratitude journal pages (shown at top) at The Artisan Life, which you can add to a binder for a DIY version — perfect for tweens or teens who want to keep their own journal and be a little more free-form with their thinking. I especially like these pages because they’re mostly blank, which encourages kids to really think for themselves and get creative too.
Breakfast photo by Providence Doucet via Unsplash
2. Add gratitude to your breakfast and bedtime routines.
Since starting the journal with my daughter, we’ve decided to reflect on the day before bedtime and write down three things we’re feeling thankful for. And in the morning, when we’re feeling fresh and anew, we jot down one more.
I’m always hesitant to add yet another thing to my kids’ daily rituals, but the quiet space right before bed is the best time for me to get a few minutes of one-on-one conversation with each of my four kids, which does as much for their happiness as being mindful and grateful does. And so, it naturally became the right time for my daughter and I to work on the gratitude journal.
Then, starting off our day at breakfast by thinking of more things we’re thankful for gets us in the right mood before we pile in the car for our busy day ahead.
Fountain photo by Frank McKenna via Unsplash
3. Be thankful for little things.
You can lead by example on this one. When we started our gratitude journal, my daughter had the same few thanks each night: my family, our house, good food. But, once I started adding some specific ideas (even silly ones to lighten the mood, such as “daddy’s dance party after dinner” or “splashing in a fountain”) it broadened her vision of what she could be thankful for.
And when your children think to be thankful for the little things — like clean sheets on the bed or a favorite t-shirt — they’re really, really thankful for big things, like a trip to Disney World or a special birthday gift from the grandparents.
And learning to be appreciative, and to express that gratitude often, is the ultimate win-win we’re all hoping for.