Gratitude

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At 10 years old I went through a rough patch and, for inspiration & comfort, a family friend gave me a beautiful handblown glass jar surrounded by colorful marbles. A note provided guidance, “Each marble represents something for which you are grateful. Let’s see how many marbles you can fill up the jar with every day.” I have thought about this jar a lot lately. Why was the task to assess what I was “grateful” for as opposed to what I may have been “thankful” for?

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word thankful as “pleased and relieved.” Now, those are fantastic feelings to have, but they are feelings and feelings come and go. Furthermore, thanking someone often happens after they have given you something. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word grateful as “showing an appreciation of kindness.” “This is where the difference lies; being thankful is a feeling, and being grateful is an action” (Susan Rhoads, 2018). At my family’s Thanksgiving table, we typically start our meal by each sharing something we are thankful for. In today’s world, filled with uncertainty and fragility, the opportunity to connect with people we love and eat delicious food together is surely something that makes us thankful. I just can’t help think that as we collectively live through this deeply challenging time, shouldn’t we strive for something more than a fleeting acknowledgement of “thanks”? What if we give ourselves the space to take those feelings of thanks and channel them into action? Before you decide this sounds like a homework assignment, you should know, people who are more grateful are scientifically determined to be happier. Jamie Ducharme, of Time Magazine, identified “Seven surprising health benefits of gratitude”:

  1. Gratitude can make you more patient
  2. Gratitude might improve your relationships
  3. Gratitude improves self-care
  4. Gratitude can help you sleep
  5. Gratitude may stop you from overeating
  6. Gratitude can help ease depression
  7. Gratitude gives you happiness that lasts

So, what would it look like to move through our day with an “attitude of gratitude”? How can we find joyous ways to keep gratitude at the forefront of our lives? Here are a few gratitude inspired family activities that you can bring into your home:

  1. Journaling – Write down or draw, each day, three things you are grateful for.
  2. Gratitude Collage - Take photos of images that inspire gratitude.
  3. Gratitude Jar – Decorate your jar/box; have slips of paper & pens handy to write or draw daily gratitude musings (pull the notes out and read them on days when you need a boost).
  4. Gratitude Rock – Find a rock that you like (for whatever reason), decorate it, carry it around in your backpack or pocket. Whenever you touch it, pause and acknowledge something that you are grateful for.
  5. Create a Gratitude Tree – Each leaf represents something you are grateful for – written, drawn, or a photo.
  6. Gratitude Letter – Reach out to someone who inspires gratitude and share what they mean to you and why. Be specific!
  7. My Marble Gratitude Jar – Decorate your jar/box; have colorful marbles in a bowl nearby; add a marble for each thing you are grateful for. Start anew each day!

Some prompts to help get the gratitude juices flowing:

  • I’m grateful for three things I hear . . .
  • I’m grateful for three things I see . . .
  • I’m grateful for three things I smell . . .
  • I’m grateful for three things I touch/feel . . .
  • I’m grateful for these three things I taste . . .
  • I’m grateful for these three friends . . .
  • I’m grateful for these three teachers . . .
  • I’m grateful for these three family members . . .

As we enter this holiday season (with our celebrations looking very different from years past), let us take the time to acknowledge what we are thankful for, and then focus our energy on living a gratitude filled life. Here at Elmwood Day Camp, we are so very grateful for the laughter, kindness, and love you all bring to our amazing community!

Happy Thanksgiving!

References: Ducharme, Jamie. (2017).“Seven Surprising Health Benefits of Gratitude.” Time Magazine. Rhoads, Susan. (2018). “The Difference Between Gratitude and Thankfulness.” Psychiatric Medical Care.

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