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In Episode 164, I’m chatting with my friend Sara Kuljis of Yosemite Sierra Summer Camp and Emerald Cove Day Camp. We talk about family gratitude practices and lessons from camp for having more grateful families. At Thanksgiving, it’s easy to remember to be grateful, but the habit of gratitude — practiced at camp, at home, and in the world — helps us to be happier all year long.
- Gratitude is a muscle. We can build it with practice.
- Research has shown that those who express gratitude daily have a more optimistic view of life and a healthier well-being.
- Developing relationships with the people around us makes it easier to share authentic gratitude.
- Model respect by thanking others, especially those who serve us.
- Use their first names when possible.
- Make eye contact
Ways to show gratitude at camp or at home
- Flower Sunday — the practice of handing a daisy while sharing an affirmation or gratitude with another person. You give your flower away and receive a flower from someone who acknowledges an action or quality they appreciate. Using a token such as a flower makes a difference.
- WOW Bulletin Board — staff and campers send and receive notes to build each other up and express thanks.
- Thankful Thursday — a note, text message or phone call to someone expressing thanks can become a helpful habit.
- 3 Good Things — share three good things that happened at the end of each day.
- Commit to sharing them with friend or family member via text. It helps with accountability and makes it easier to remember.
- Go around the dinner table and share with your family or friends.
- Write them down in a journal before bed, or share three things you are thankful for first thing in the morning.
- This habit can not only strengthen your gratitude muscle but also deepen your relationships and improve your outlook on life.
- Gratitude Jar — keep slips of paper for family write down things they are grateful for and collect the scraps in a jar.
- Share the memories collected over the year at New Year’s Eve or at Thanksgiving or anytime.
- Attach the messages to a bulletin board or even to the Christmas Tree!
- Warm Fuzzies — Take a sheet of paper for each person, write their name on it and pass it around. Have everyone write down what they appreciate about that person.
- Be specific. It is nice to recognize precise actions or character strengths we appreciate in others.
- Go around the table at mealtime and share 3 good things, something you are grateful for (besides friends and family) or something you are grateful for about yourself
- Ask children to think of ways they would like to show gratitude for others. Children have really good ideas themselves.
Audrey: “We cannot raise grateful kids if we are not promoting our own gratitude.”
Audrey: “It’s important to remember that it’s not just about completing a task, like sending a text or writing in your journal. It’s about taking the moment to feel thankful. We need to take the task out of it and feel the gratitude.”
Sara: “At the end of the day being grateful makes me kinder and softer to those around me.”
Sara: “There’s a lot of not-feeling-good-enough in the world. I enjoy helping people identify their natural talents and the natural goodness that is built in them and being intentional about building those into strengths for making a positive impact in the world.”
More Gratitude Resources and Ideas
30 Days of Gratitude, Writeshop.com
One Simple Thing
“It’s simple. It’s powerful and it’s a great way to start feeding the positive dog. How does it work? You simply take a walk… outside, in a mall, at your office, on a treadmill, etc and while walking you think about all the things, big and small, that you are grateful for. The research shows you can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time so when you combine gratitude with physical exercise, you give yourself a double boost of positive energy. You flood your brain and body with positive emotions and natural anti-depressants that uplift you rather than the stress hormones that drain and slowly kill you.”
One recent December, at age 53, John Kralik found his life at a terrible, frightening low: his small law firm was failing; he was struggling through a painful second divorce; he had grown distant from his two older children and was afraid he might lose contact with his young daughter; he was living in a tiny apartment where he froze in the winter and baked in the summer; he was 40 pounds overweight; his girlfriend had just broken up with him; and overall, his dearest life dreams–including hopes of upholding idealistic legal principles and of becoming a judge–seemed to have slipped beyond his reach.
Then, during a desperate walk in the hills on New Year’s Day, John was struck by the belief that his life might become at least tolerable if, instead of focusing on what he didn’t have, he could find some way to be grateful for what he had.
Inspired by a beautiful, simple note his ex-girlfriend had sent to thank him for his Christmas gift, John imagined that he might find a way to feel grateful by writing thank-you notes. To keep himself going, he set himself a goal–come what may–of writing 365 thank-you notes in the coming year.
One by one, day after day, he began to handwrite thank yous–for gifts or kindnesses he’d received from loved ones and coworkers, from past business associates and current foes, from college friends and doctors and store clerks and handymen and neighbors, and anyone, really, absolutely anyone, who’d done him a good turn, however large or small. Immediately after he’d sent his very first notes, significant and surprising benefits began to come John’s way–from financial gain to true friendship, from weight loss to inner peace. While John wrote his notes, the economy collapsed, the bank across the street from his office failed, but thank-you note by thank-you note, John’s whole life turned around.
365 Thank Yous is a rare memoir: its touching, immediately accessible message–and benefits–come to readers from the plainspoken storytelling of an ordinary man. Kralik sets a believable, doable example of how to live a miraculously good life. To read 365 Thank Yous is to be changed.