It has been proven scientifically that feeling and practicing gratitude has a positive impact in our lives: from physical and psychological health improvement to better self-esteem.
I have seen the benefits of having a daily gratitude practice, both in my life and with my coaching clients. And I also know that it’s not easy to include it in your daily life, especially when you are already juggling (small) children, housework, paidwork, homeschooling, etc.. Today I would like to share with you some simple ways to practice gratitude. Like I said before, it takes around 28 days to change a habit or introduce a new one in your daily life, so you will need to be patient with yourself and commit to keep practicing for a month or so.
All these practices will take 5 minutes of your time, sometimes less. You can do them alone but I strongly recommend you to include your children.
1/ Gratitude Journal
A mindful way to end up your days. You can keep a little notebook and a pen on your night table and write down at least 10 things you are grateful for. If you want to deepen your practice, try writing 15 or 20 things. You will see that at the beginning of your list you will start with “obvious” things: your family, your friends, your home... But if you keep writing you will start paying attention to little details. Maybe you will express gratitude for the glorious light of the sunset that made your child’s hair look golden and shiny. Maybe you will notice the sound of the leaves falling to the ground and be grateful for being able to hear. Maybe you will feel grateful for having running water and electricity.
Writing down your list each day (don’t forget to note the date) is very powerful and later on you will appreciate going through your notebooks and read your “gratitude story” from past months and years.
In the early days of motherhood (and sometimes even years after) I didn’t find the luxury to take 5 minutes to write down my lists for the simple reason I nursed my daughter to sleep and very often fall asleep too. And there were days where I used the only 5 minutes I had for myself to take a super fast shower. On days like these I either
mentally wrote my list in my mind or whispered it to my daughter while nursing her.
or I did the next practice, the Gratitude Shower
With children, you can ask them what they are grateful for and write down their lists. Younger children might have troubles at the beginning to understand the concept of gratitude that sounds “abstract” to them. To help them:
You can share your own lists first.
You can ask them what/ who makes them happy, what/ who brings them joy
You can include this in their bedtime ritual. Expressing gratitude helps us and children sleep better.
2/ Gratitude Shower
If you don’t feel like writing a gratitude journal or you don’t have the time to, than this is for you. In the morning, while you take your shower, say out loudly the things you are grateful for. There is something very powerful about hearing yourself verbalizing gratitude.
To include your children, you can ask them what they are grateful for (what brings them joy, what makes them happy) when they are taking their bath/ shower.
3/ Gratitude, first thing in the morning
Another practice you can try is to open your eyes in the morning and, instead of jumping out of the bed or thinking about the long list of things you will need to do during the day, try to stay still and think about the things you are feeling grateful for: the bed you are sleeping in, that you have a home, etc..
With children: If your baby of child is the one who wakes you up (like my daughter did for years :) very early in the morning, try suggesting this gratitude practice to them to or do it while cuddling or nursing.
Gathas are poems and sayings used in meditation retreats as a part of a daily mindfulness practice. They remind us about the little things in life that are sometimes unnoticed and that we might take for granted.
The most important thing for gathas is to say them mindfully, not to repeat them by habit, automatically. Each word needs to be said with intention.
In our family, before each meal, we say a little poem by Christian Morgenstern that we have learned in our Forest Playgroup. It goes like this:
"Erde, die uns dies gebracht,
Sonne die es reif gemacht:
Liebe Sonne, liebe Erde,
Euer nie vergessen werde."
"Earth who gives us this food,
Sun who makes it ripe and good
Dear Earth, dear Sun,
By you we live, our loving thanks to you we give"
Children usually love gathas and they take pleasure in saying them.
With children: Find a gatha or a blessing, a poem, a prayer, whatever works for your family , and say it mindfully, preciously holding each word in your heart and being aware about the intention. Feel the gratitude.
Children are naturally resourceful and creative and if you start developing a gratitude practice with them they will teach you thousand ways of expressing gratitude in the little moments, every day. Does your family have a gratitude practice?