There has been quite a bit of research done across multiple disciplines about the benefits of gratitude, from the religious sectors all the way to the personal finance industry. Gratitude simply makes life better. It has been shown to improve your mental, physical, and emotional health. It opens the door to better relationships, both personal and spiritual. It enhances empathy and leads to less aggression and more acceptance. Also, grateful people sleep better, eat healthier, and build stronger careers. Grateful people even spend less money!
So, why do so many of us intentionally practice giving thanks ONLY in the month of November? This practice needs to be a year-round aspiration! Here are a few (maybe less-obvious) ways to sustain the benefits of Thanksgiving throughout the year. As you practice giving thanks in all the months of the year, you might recognize how much you already have and how little you need to buy to have a beautiful life.
Praise and Prayer
Hang a poster board, butcher paper, or a chalk board up with the words, “Praise” and “Prayer”, in a high traffic area in your home, such as the back door or the mud room. Encourage family members to write what they are thankful for on the Praise side and ask for prayers for themselves and others on the opposite side.
Keep a spiral notebook open on the kitchen counter and have each person jot down something they are grateful for or something they’re looking forward to in the journal each day. Bring it to the dinner table one day per week and share your family’s good news with each other.
Random Thank You Notes
I am terrible at writing out thank you notes after a birthday party. I wish I was better at it, but maybe thank you notes would be even more appreciated when they’re not considered obligatory. Keep thank you notes available in your home and practice writing notes to friends after an act of kindness or a fun night out. Encourage your kids to do the same, even to their own siblings. Gasp!
Closet and Pantry Inventory
Before going shopping for something new or for gifts for others, take a mental (or written) inventory of what’s in your closet, pantry, or playroom. This can help you and your kids recognize how much you already own and be grateful for it. While cleaning toys or putting away laundry, I often point out to the kids the abundance they have of these items. We also discuss whether they really need duplicates of certain items. This practice will likely prevent you from over-spending on what you don’t really need. You may even find gifts for others in your home and skip the shopping trip altogether.
Pick a “No-Negativity Day”
Life is tough! Venting helps.
But maybe, just one day per week can become a sacred “No-Negativity” day. On this day, focus entirely on being positive. This would be a HUGE challenge for me and therefore, this is one tradition I’m going to strive for throughout the year! Someone please hold me accountable.
Organize your Stuff
Assigning specific locations in your home for arts and crafts, school supplies, toys, books, seasonal decor, tools, etc and keeping them all very organized can not only help with recognizing the many things you own, it can also help you appreciate the space you have available to you for storing it all. If you don’t have the space, then give excess items away. An organized and clutter-free home leads to better appreciation for where you live and what you have. It might also keep you from searching for a bigger, more expensive home or additional storage for your stuff.
Since practicing gratitude daily, we have spent significantly less money as a family. We have become more aware of what brings us joy and how little money we actually need to enjoy each other’s company. We also have an acute awareness of what we own and primarily purchase food and basic home necessities when out shopping. An attitude of gratitude is also leading us down a path toward minimalism. We haven’t embraced it fully, but it’s looming on the horizon like it never has before.