Ever since our kids started talking, we’ve had this bedtime gratitude ritual (among many others) that goes something like this:
What’s your “rose” for the day? I made a fort with Mimi.
And what’s your “thorn?” You made me take it down.
We still use this rose/thorn routine as a form of prayer or contemplation on the day — sometimes at night, in addition to or in lieu of other prayers, sometimes at the dinner table. But at some point we stepped it up (removing the “thorn” from the equation) with a family gratitude journal.
At least once a week, we each take turns writing (or telling Mom to write) down one thing:
My happiest moment of the day was …
Starting this at a young age seemed like a good idea. I’ve been doing it on and off myself for the past eight years or so, and still I’m always surprised at how hard it is to keep up. Not just finding something to be thankful for when things are at their toughest. But remembering to be thankful in the good times. For the small, simple things. I wanted it to become second nature for my kids.
For many reasons. Research shows that practicing gratitude leads to greater happiness and optimism, deeper relationships, reduced stress, increased energy, greater spirituality, more self-esteem and overall better health. Jeffrey Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University, who focuses on the topic says that kids who practice gratitude “report better relationships with friends and family, higher GPAs, less materialism, less envy and less depression, along with a desire to connect to their community and to want to give back.”
Take Oprah. She’s been talking gratitude for years (Aha!), and journaling since she was 15. And look where she is?
Maybe I haven’t reached Oprah status, but what I’ve found is that in certain moments, this simple little practice of writing things down can change my outlook, even turn the day around. And doing it as a family … even more so. I’ve noticed the energy in the house actually shift a bit after we’ve all taken a step back, and focused on something happy.
It doesn’t have to be some grand moment with philosophical pondering. The simpler, the better. Roman’s happiest moment last week was “dessert.”
If nothing else, it’s a way to check in once a week (every day if you’re ambitious) and connect with one another. And to remember that if you can look beyond all the thorns of the day … eventually you’ll uncover the rose.
Here’s the journal our family uses:
It’s a great little book with reflections, suggestions and inspiring quotes. But you don’t need this, or a fancy one – any notebook will do.
Let me know if you’re already doing this (maybe in another form), plan to take it up one day, or have other thoughts or ideas.
I’ll be most grateful.