Katie-Anne Gustafsson: In today’s society we too often focus on the negative aspects of our lives. How many times during your day do you think “I shouldn’t have got out of bed this morning” or before you’ve even finished your breakfast coffee or orange juice you’ve already categorized the day as “one of those days”.
We’re in such a rush that we tend to remember what holds us back from our daily purpose, and not see the things that were wonderful with the day. Instead of concentrating on things you wish had been different, set aside a small amount of time each day, perhaps after or during supper, when each member of the family can tell what was good about their day.
Set some guidelines. For example, each family member MUST say 5 (or other appropriate number) positive things about their day. There will be days when there seems an abundance of happy events to talk about, a party, items on sale, nice weather, friends, etc. But some days it might be difficult to reach the required number, but encourage everyone to find them. Perhaps it didn’t rain when you needed to walk to the grocery store, perhaps it did rain but you had an umbrella.
Perhaps a teacher was sick and couldn’t come to school on the day that a forgotten homework assignment was due, perhaps the teacher wasn’t sick but was willing to give an extension. Perhaps there wasn’t much traffic on the way to an important meeting, perhaps there were many cars on the road but nothing that prevented you arriving in time.
If someone in the family has had a really tough day and is really struggling, try and encourage them to find what’s important in their lives, do they have food and shelter, are they warm and comfortable, are they loved, these fundamental issues that we mostly take for granted are all things to be grateful for.
If you live alone the best way to do this is to write in a journal. Buy a nice book that inspires you to write happy thoughts. Pick something that may not be expensive, but makes you smile to look at it. You could use a diary or daily planner as long as there’s room for the appropriate number of items you wish to name each day. Set that number before you start your journal and then each day make sure that you find that many to write down before closing your book.
Some people find that that best time to do this activity is at the end of the day just before bed, others do it the next morning when their mind has put the negative things from the previous day into perspective, experiment and find the best time for you. Older children may also benefit from writing down the good things that happened to them each day, then when they feel that they aren’t loved, or everything is wrong, they can read back over these journal entries and see that life is just having a bad patch and they have much to be thankful about.
A fun way of getting a positive approach across to younger children is to make a collage. Get a large piece of paper, age appropriate glue and scissors, pens/pencils/crayons, and some old magazines/catalogues/flyers etc.
Write in large letters at the top of the paper, “THANK YOU”. Each day after school the little ones can cut out images that represent good things that happened to them that day, if images aren’t available encourage them to draw something appropriate.
When the paper is full, pin it up on the child’s bedroom wall so that they can see it each morning when they wake up. A variation on this would be to have a scrapbook and to use one page per week, or month – more creative adults may also enjoy this approach!
Taking time out for a gratitude session is a great way to see what is good in life. It’s also a superb way of showing children that there is good around them if they take the time to notice it.
The best thing about this of course is that it’s something that can be done together, and it doesn’t need to cost anything more than a few moments of time.