Experience has taught me that more gratitude I show to others, the happier I, and as a result, others around me, become. Joy spreads joy; the more I give the more I get.
Being grateful is a component of mindfulness that generates a shift in mindset; it’s like flipping the”optimism” button on inside your brain. The more time you spend acknowledging the good things in your life the more difficult it is to focus on those that are challenging you. In fact, when I’m really feeling frustrated the most effective thing I can do for myself is to make a list of the things I am grateful for right now.
I recently started a new practice with my kids during our nightly prayers, and it’s all centered on gratitude. After we say our sort of standard set of prayers, we each take a turn to do the following things: 1- Thank God for something in our lives. This could be anything, the intent is for it to be genuine and not reference something material but really anything goes. 2- Ask God for help with something in our lives. It might be strength, courage, support, patience, something we are struggling with currently. 3- Ask God to help someone else in our life; a friend, a neighbor, someone we saw in the community, a global problem. Something beyond us, that we would like to send our love and support to by asking for God’s help.
This has been an absolutely incredible experience so far. It not only is both the lesson and practice of gratitude and altruism, it is a fantastic way to check in with my kids in a very safe, loving and natural way. Through their sharing, I learn about where they are at emotionally, what’s going on in their lives, who they are thinking about, what kinds of things are on their minds and how I might better be able to support them. It’s awesome. Really, really awesome.
I take the act very seriously as my own prayer time so I make sure I keep it real. I usually find a way to reference my children in one of the three statements so they continue to hear how important they are to me. By sharing my own ideas first, I am modeling ideas and positive speech patterns/self-talk. I’m also being honest about what is going on in my life at a level appropriate for their age and understanding. They are learning how to be positive, optimistic and resilient; in turn, developing a growth mindset. We are cultivating the habit and thought pattern of a reflective practitioner – “here is where I am today, tomorrow I want to be better, and here is how I would like to do it.”
This is legit shit people, try it. Journal it. Remember it. Live it.
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