One of the first things we teach our kids is to say thank you.

“When someone gives you a compliment, what should you say? When grandma sends you a present, what do we tell her? When big sis picks up your plate and puts it in the sink, what should you say to her?”

But does teaching them to say thankful really tell them anything about gratitude? And when was the last time you slowed down to truly be thankful!

{Sometimes the slowing down and being less distracted is the hardest part!}

In the first part of this mindful moms series, we’ve talked about bringing our brains back to baseline. As moms, we are often living in constant reaction mode. You’ve heard of flight or fight response, or stress response? When we’re living crazy, over-scheduled lives, our brain performance goes into constant stress mode — and that becomes our baseline. It’s not necessarily the best thing for our health.

Practicing gratitude is one way you can become more mindful and help your overall health. Studies show that people who practice gratitude feel 25% happier, are more likely to be kind and helpful to others, are more enthusiastic, interested and determined, and even sleep better.  

Here are five simple ways to practice gratitude with the whole family.

five simple ways to practice gratitude with the whole family

Make it part of bedtime. This is actually one of my favorite things to do with the kids, although it doesn’t happen every night. Those last few moments before they fall asleep (and, let’s be honest, you fall asleep with them) are the perfect time for everyone to talk about what they are thankful for and remember the positive moments from the day. If “what are you grateful for today?” seems a bit cheesy, ask open ended questions like “who was a good friend to you today?” Put the focus on the positive. Don’t make it in interview; make it a conversation. Model for them and share what you’re thankful for, too.

Write a gratitude letter. We all have that person who profoundly impacted our life and probably didn’t get the thanks he or she deserved.  Write them a letter. Have your kids write letters to someone. Mail them. 

Start a gratitude calendar. One of my favorite Facebook features is time hop. The images, status updates, and funny memories that pop up every day are some of my favorite moments of the day. So what about creating your own old-school gratitude timehop?  Create a daily gratitude calendar that you update each year with one thing for which you are grateful. Can just be an index card. Or you could get crafty.

Catch consideration in the act. Catch others in the act — and acknowledge them. When your child holds the door for someone else at the store, your spouse cleans the kitchen, or the barista takes a few extra moments to draw your child a photo on their hot cocoa cup. Thank them in more than two words. “Thank you for holding the door open for that other mom. She had her hands full with those two little kids and you made her day a little easier.”  Modeling and mentioning gratitude is catching!

Spend time in the moment. Ditch the cell phone and crazy schedules; head the park, go out on a hike, play kickball in the backyard. Find something you like to do together (and hey — maybe it’s not the whole family; maybe it’s one-on-one time with each kid), and do it. 

(cool) mindful moms week three: gratitude

Sometime during the next week, pick one of the ideas for practicing gratitude above and try it. Don’t forget to join the Facebook group and participate in the discussion — or leave a comment below! Next week we’ll be transitioning from becoming more mindful to goal setting with coach Alexis Brandolini!