Studies show that practicing gratitude makes you happier. People who intentionally focus on recognizing people and things that they are thankful for—on a daily or weekly basis—report feeling happy for up to a month after the positive affirmations. Expressing gratitude is also good for relationships. If we focus on the positive things about a person and acknowledge his or her kindness, it can improve our relationship with that person.
Although gratitude activities can be practiced any time of the year, November is an especially good time to start a family gratitude activity, with Thanksgiving coming up this year on Thursday, November 26th.
Plan a 30 Day Gratitude Challenge with Your Family
There are tons of articles online with gratitude challenges that families can participate in together, but we think that the best way for families like yours to put a plan into practice is to make the plan together. We recommend making a gratitude-themed calendar with a different activity your family can do together every day that inspires gratefulness.
Each member of the family will each take a gratitude picture every day and share it. (A positive use for social media!) Whether it’s a photo of the new puppy in the family or a pretty sunrise, knowing that you’ll find one thing every day that makes you grateful can change your focus on the whole season.
MAKE GRATITUDE STONES
This is a cute and easy craft for all ages. Gratitude stones can be used as conversation starters, to calm down strong feelings, or as part of a bedtime ritual. They are also fun to share with others! (From Fireflies and Mudpies)
THEMED CONVERSATION PROMPTS
Dedicate one or two nights per week to gathering for a family dinner. Then, plan to discuss one of the following themes around the table (from Positively Present):
Whether you realize it or not, every day, every moment, you’re growing and changing. Most of us focus on growth as something that happens when we’re young, but we never stop growing. How have you grown over the past year? Or how have you seen someone or something else grow?
You’ve learned so much since the day you were born, which is pretty amazing. What’s the thing you’re most thankful to have learned? Is there knowledge you’ve gathered this year that you’re particularly grateful for? Also, today is a great day to be thankful for the resources and people who have taught you.
What song are you most thankful for right now?
No matter where you live, there’s likely to be some nature around you. What is inspiring or beautiful about nature you come into contact with often? What elements of nature do you most connect with? What element of the natural world are you most grateful to experience?
Consider your favorite moment or item from the past. What was wonderful about it? How do you feel when you think of that time / thing / person?
Change can be a negative or positive experience, but it’s an inevitable part of life. What’s changed in life over the past year? What’s changed in the last decade? Do you have new friends, new experiences, new mindsets? If you’re struggling with this prompt, change the way you do something today and see how it feels.
When do you most feel at peace? When you do feel relaxed, calm, and most like yourself? Those moments are the ones you should celebrate today (and maybe even consider how you want to incorporate more of them in your life!).
There is always something beautiful around you if you make an effort to look for it. What beauty are you grateful to see or experience today, right now? What things make your home, office, neighborhood, etc. more beautiful? Who around you embodies the essence of beauty? What do you find beautiful about yourself?
How do you feel about color? Which ones are your favorites? What colors inspire feelings of happiness? Share those today!
Without friendship, life would be quite dull. Today’s the day to focus your attention on the friends who brighten your world. Who has been by your side no matter what? Who can you call, day or night, for a chat? Who puts a smile on your face when you think of them?
What books do you love most? What’s the best book you’ve read this year, or in recent years? What have you learned from books that you might not have otherwise known?
Kindness is such a simple thing, but it’s not always as abundant as it could be. Today’s a good day to do something especially kind for someone else. It’s also the day to celebrate kindness — kindness you’ve committed, you’ve experienced, or you’ve witnessed. When you think of the word “kindness,” what’s the first thing you think of?
What does the word “home” mean to you? Is it where you rest your head each night? Is it where you grew up? Or is home more of a state of mind? Or perhaps a person? Home doesn’t need to be a physical thing so feel free to explore creatively with this prompt. Whatever home means to you, reflect on it and share a photo of it today.
Humor is one of life’s greatest gifts. It can transform a mood, lighten a tough time, or touch on tough topics with levity. Today, reflect on what makes you laugh and the things you find humorous. Is it a movie? A book? A joke? A memory? A friend? Whatever evokes that giddy sense of joy within you, be thankful for it.
Family — no matter what shape or size it comes in — is something we’re all lucky to have in our lives. Take note of your family today (and “family” can include friends or anyone you’ve chosen as your family, too!). What do you love about the family you surround yourself with? What do you often take for granted and could be extra appreciative of today?
No matter what, the one thing you will always have in your life is YOU. On the final day of the challenge, I like to turn our attention inward. Consider, today, all the ways you are amazing, and appreciate the good (and not so good!) parts of yourself. What do you love most about you? What aspects do you feel deserve more love and attention?
- WATCH GRATITUDE VIDEOS ON YOUTUBE: There are so many great videos you can enjoy as a family, then follow with a group discussion! Here is one example:
MAKE THANK-YOU LETTERS OR DRAWINGS
Most people love receiving thank you cards: family members, friends, your child’s teachers, neighbors, etc. This can also be a great way to teach your child how to address a friendly letter and send it via “snail mail!”
DO A FAMILY CRAFT
Any of the following crafts are great ideas to inspire gratitude and have a fun time doing it!
- Create a Thankfulness Tree from coffee cups and crayons
- Thankful Trees (literature-based activity) from Creative Family Fun
- Journey to the Gratitude Garden: Activity for Thanksgiving from All Done Monkey
- Thankful Pumpkin from A Mom Not a Professional Nor a Perfectionist
- Gratitude from Hometessori
- Gratitude at the Table from Creative Family Fun
- Giving Thanks with Young Children from Sixty Second Parent
- Thanksgiving Activity: Create a Family Journal by Cathy at Kids Activities Blog
- My ABC’s of Thanksgiving (with free printable) from This Reading Mama
- Book of Thanks: A Free Thanksgiving Printable Booklet Keepsake from Upside Down Homeschooling
- Thanksgiving Gratitude Board from Enchanted Homeschooling Mom
- Thanksgiving Leaf Banner from The Artful Parent
- Gratitude Garland by Live.Rinse.Repeat
PLAY THE GRATITUDE GAME
This idea is perfect for families with younger children. You could play this on a family night in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving day or on the actual holiday. The suggested prompts are simple enough for younger children or you could come up with prompts of your own for each color (from Organized Mom).
As Janice Kaplan from Parade Magazine says, “An attitude of gratitude will change the way everyone feels about the holiday season. Looking outward is almost guaranteed to make you happier and calmer. Make sure the whole family gathers again to talk about how they’ve done on the Challenge before the kids start ripping the wrappings off their gifts. Gratitude won’t make the ugly sweater from Aunt Bea any prettier. But it may help kids appreciate the love in every package.”
1. Be an Active Listener
Show you gratitude to others by really listening to what they have to say.
2. Give Out Compliments
Make someone’s day by giving out compliments on little things like a great shirt, a nice smile, or on a job well done.
3. Make Eye Contact
When interacting with people, make eye contact and show you are really present in the conversation.
4. Give a Detailed Example of Appreciation
Let someone know exactly why you are grateful to have them in your life by citing an example of things they have done or said on your behalf.
5. Be Thoughtful of Others
While you must take care of you, it is important to also think of others first. Consider someone else’s feelings with every action and word.
6. Volunteer for Unpleasant Tasks
Offer to do a chore or errand. By doing these tasks for someone you make their day easier.
7. Give a Hug
Make a true connection with those you love and are grateful to have in your life by giving hugs when greeting, saying goodbye, or saying thanks.
8. Just Be There
Spend time with others especially during difficult times and just be there without your phone and other distractions.
9. Be Gracious when Challenged
When someone challenges your actions or words, still show grace by listening to what they say and being polite. You never really know what someone else might be going through so don’t take their actions personally and show them kindness (even if it’s really hard to do).
10. Offer Congratulations
When someone you know is celebrating an achievement, offer your sincere congratulations even if you are not the winner.
11. Show Off Their Gifts
When someone is gracious enough to give you a gift make sure you wear the clothes in their presence, display their craft on your desk, or make it known you appreciate the gift by using it.
12. Share Their Joys
Celebrate other’s joys as if they were your own.
13. Be Patient
Patience is not everyone’s virtue but give it your best effort to remain patient with those you love and remember that everyone has their own struggles.
14. Share Their Praise
When you are on the receiving end of great service or fine hospitality let others know about the job well done such as telling supervisors about the excellent service your wait staff provided.
15. Select Small, Thoughtful Gifts
When you are out and about, select a few small but thoughtful gifts for those you love just to show you are thinking about them.
16. Write Handwritten Notes of Thanks
When you receive a gift, handwrite a thank you note that mentions the gift you received and your appreciation.
17. Handwrite ‘Thinking of You Letters’
Forget emails when sending personal sentiments that lets loved ones know you are thinking of them.
18. Handwrite Letters of Encouragement
Skip the texts. When family and friends are having a rough time, handwrite letters of encouragement and inspiration or, give them a call and let them get it all out.
19. Write a Love Letter
Address a love letter to those you love – from your spouse, to your parents, to your children you will provide them with proof positive they are loved and appreciated. It also helps remind you what you have to be grateful for every day.
20. Journal Your Blessings
Take a few moments each night before bed to write down the things you appreciated throughout the day. It can be a wonderful way to reflect on how far you’ve come over the years.
21. Be a Support System
When people are in need, step up to be the go-to person they can rely on for support regardless of your differences.
22. Share Your Talents
If you are a whiz at scrapbooking, money management, or resume writing, share your talents with those in need.
23. Perform a Random Act of Kindness
Kindness is still very much appreciated in the world today so perform a random kindness for those you love or a total stranger without looking for praise such as buying a homeless person lunch.
24. Pay It Forward
When you order a coffee, pay for the person behind you. When you are at the drive through, pay an extra $5 for the next person in line. Drop a few extra coins in the toll booth on your travels.
25. Tip Well for Good Service
When you receive good service, be sure to offer a good tip that shows those in the service industry how much they are appreciated. It is often a low-paying, unappreciated job others continue to do.
26. Donate to Charity
Skip a pedicure and allocate that money to a charity in your local community.
27. Volunteer Your Time
Spend a few hours at a food bank, an animal shelter, or your church helping others. Sharing your time with those in need can help put your own life into perspective.
28. Host a Gathering for Your Dearest Friends (after Covid-19)
For no reason at all, host a gathering of your nearest and dearest as a way to say thank you for all they’ve done.
29. Help a Stranger in Need
While more risky now than in decades past, helping a stranger can certainly make you feel great. If you can’t change a flat tire, at least hang out nearby until the tow truck arrives. If you pick a “weird vibe” or anything else that makes you funny, trust your gut and get outta there. You can always show gratitude later that day.
30. Share your Material Possessions
Don’t be stingy with the things you do have. Be willing to share your possessions with those you love and those that are not as fortunate.
31. Say You’re Sorry
No matter how mad you get or how right you are, be willing to say you are sorry to those you truly love and appreciate. Be willing to compromise in life. There’s a saying that goes, “You can either be right or you can be happy.”
32. Visit the Sick and/or Elderly (after Covid-19)
Spend time with those who may not have anyone else. A Saturday morning visit to the nursing home or the sick ward at the local hospital can brighten everyone’s day. Think about how you might appreciate that when you’re elderly yourself.
33. Always say Thank You
No matter how small or how big the favor was, always say thank you. Say it to family, friends, co-workers, and kids. A heartfelt thank you can go a long way. I always try to say it to the bus driver as I get off the bus because their job seems so thankless.
All the time! Share a smile with loved ones and strangers on the bus. While not everyone will smile back, it is certainly worth the effort to keep doing it. Smiles are contagious so do your part to make happiness and gratitude go viral.