Take time this season to be grateful

With the holidays approaching our to-do list might look like this: decorate the house, shop for presents, plan holiday meals, etc. etc.  Let’s add one more to list and move it to the top. Be Grateful. Because isn’t that what really matters most as we celebrate the holidays?  Here are a few ways to inspire and cultivate gratitude now and throughout the year.

Model a grateful mindset & you’ll have happier kids.

No matter how much we think our kids are influenced by TV, video games and their friends, kids learn how to interact with others by watching and listening to us. Expressing gratitude in many small ways throughout the day, by thanking those who help us and showing appreciation for what life gives us is a valuable practice.  Plus kids who show gratefulness on a regular basis have stronger immune systems, more joy and happiness and less feelings of loneliness, according to researchers at U.C Berkeley. What better gifts can you give your children?

Turn gratefulness into action.

Does your child love animals or going to the beach?  Or feel good when she donates a toy to a less fortunate child? There are many non-profit and volunteer organizations they can help your child understand what it’s like to make a difference.  Beautify Chula Vista, Toys for Tots, San Diego Food Bank, San Diego Human Society and Adopt-a Beach program all have local volunteer opportunities for you and your kids. Fueling their passion in issues they care about teaches them that gratitude in life comes from connecting to a bigger picture and society.

Use the holidays to celebrate gratefulness.

What better time than when we’re celebrating with family and friends to express gratitude? It can be as easy as having your family share something they’re grateful for or offering a thankful prayer before a holiday meal.  If you need ideas, Saying Grace: Blessings for the Family Table is a book with sayings of gratitude from cultures and religions around the world including Bible passages, Native American prayers, Hindu blessings, Yiddish proverbs and more.

Easy ways to practice gratefulness.

Gratitude journals can help kids remember why they’re thankful on a regular basis. All you need is a blank notebook and kids can write, draw or paste a picture of something they are grateful for, or a way they showed kindness during the week (doing it daily might make it seem like a chore). All you need to do is lavish praise!

Gratitude trees are a simple, but beautiful holiday decoration. Take strips of multicolored ribbons (about one inch wide) and have family members write something or someone they are grateful for on each one. Tie the ribbons on branches of a tree outside or on a mini holiday tree that can be used as a table centerpiece.

Read Bedtime stories like The Secret Stone (free on Kindle) with a beautiful message about being thankful for what you have.

A thank you note kit filled with cute note cards, ink stamps and pads, stickers and colored pens make thank-you note writing a fun, creative expression of gratitude.

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