When we make a habit of gratitude, we no longer require a special event to make us happy. Tal Ben-Shahar Being Happy You Don’t Have to be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life
I have been telling my kids for years that the easiest way to get what you want is to be grateful for what you have. They smile and listen to humor me, but I believe it. Deeply. I know that everything good in my life is there because I am grateful for it.
At dinner, when we are lucky enough to all sit down together we do our “roses and thorns” – we borrowed it from a friend, who borrowed it from First Lady Michelle Obama. We take turns going around the table and everyone shares 2 roses and a thorn from their day. Often we hear “I had no thorns today but here’s my list of 10 roses.” When we do hear a thorn it gives us a chance to talk it out and help someone through it – nothing can ruin your day quite like a festering thorn…. The roses give us a chance to be grateful.
The other thing we have is our gratitude jar. I have been making them and sharing them with friends for a couple of years. Here’s how we use it. We have it in our living room. Any time anything big or little happens we jot it down and put it in the jar. Then on New Year’s Eve we take out all the scraps of paper and read the bits of gratitude to each other. I will admit to being the one who puts the most scraps in – I am trying to model good jar behavior…. but no matter how many are in there, the ones that make it in are priceless to read and share and be grateful for all over again.
Last year Troy put in “Mom+rgums=grrr.” It took me a little while to decipher the note but then I realized he was saying, having an argument with mom makes me angry/unhappy. And I remembered that I had put it in the jar because we had a few words one day and then he scribbled something on a piece of paper and left it for me to read. It snapped me out of whatever we were arguing about and allowed me to relax and see his side of things, so I folded up his little missive and popped it into the jar.
And, while I can tell you that I have successfully convinced my family to share in the roses & thorns and the gratitude jar, I am pretty sure I am the only one in the house with a gratitude journal. I realize that I have just admitted to being a gratitude geek, but I am more than OK with that.Almost every night I write down the 3 things that I am grateful for so that when I go to sleep they are the last things on my mind. Some days I just write three words. Other days I write a lot more. But the important thing is that it has become a habit.
Like with the jar, sometimes I will experience something and I will say (to myself) – that was a jar-worthy moment and I will scratch it down and put it in the jar later in the day or I will save it for my journal. It doesn’t mean I am never ungrateful or unhappy but the nightly journal habit and the jar help me to get myself out of those ungrateful and unhappy moments.
Yesterday, Troy woke me up at 5AM because he was laughing in his sleep – it was a belly laugh and it was the best sound despite the early hour. I went into his room and he was chortling. His beautiful 8 year old face was in a full smile. He didn’t wake up, he just went back to sleep. I was so grateful to have been woken up. That’s jar-worthy and so much better than GRRR.