Attitude of Gratitude

Life can be hard, but truly we have so many opportunities, great and minor, to be thankful each day.  I am such a planner and that I am often looking at the next thing on my “to-do” list rather than stopping to appreciate how far we have come, and while this dreaming and scheming helps us accomplish a lot, it sometimes feels like we have so much still left to do, we never get to year 5 of the 5 year plan because it becomes year 1 of the next 5 years!

To help the family stop and give thanks we have two small practices, we use them sporadically but I have come to really love them.

First, with the kids we have a small journal we use for “Gratitude.”  We go around the table and each tell something we are thankful for, and I write them down.  John almost always mentions his latest favorite toy of the moment.  It interests me that Peter names the authors of the books he reads, not the books themselves.  The girls may come up with a person, and Leo always, always says the food that we are eating at that moment.  We have fun doing this and I really like having the journal to look back on, when they are older it will be very funny to see what they were most grateful for at age 5.

Second, for my marriage, even though we are not really sentimental in general, we try to send emails with the subject line “it’s great” and then say something positive.

For example, it’s great that the super cheap pool company I found actually showed up and closed the pool, the price was so good that I had my doubts!  It’s great that the service men at this small business were super child-friendly.  It’s great to watch the kids gather around the window as the pipes are blown out, exclaiming over the geysers.

On a really bad day, looking for one good thing can help us to keep on moving forward.

Lastly, my husband’s mother used to wear a pin to work every day with the word “Attitude” in gold letters.  The pin only had one stick on the back — pins with words usually have two, so that they stay straight once they are pinned on — so that from time to time you had to “adjust your attitude.”  This is a phrase that we use with the children, but sometimes I need it more than them!  These small practices help me to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for my abundant blessings.

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  • BMM

    Great post! Faith and Family has a different, but not totally unrelated post up today hilighting the joys of at-home parenthood: mom of a 17 month old and one month and a lover of control, I find myself focusing on the challenges of parenthood all too often (“is this really my life??” “will I ever be able to cook a nice meal/clean the bathrooms/[insert any number of household tasks here] again?”) . Not that parenthood isn’t ridiculously hard at times, but just as love is an act of the will and not an emotion, achieving joy in daily life – not just fleeting happiness – in spite of the challenges requires actively focusing on the positive and being grateful for God’s innumerable gifts. Hrd to do, but thanks for the reminder!

  • Mary Alice

    You will be able to do all of that and more! Having 2 under 2 has its own special joys and challenges, I would not believed you if you had told me that having six would be easier, but now that four of them can dress, eat and entertain themselves much of the time, not to mention help around the house, it is amazing how much of the day to day things I can manage with greater ease.

  • Anonymous

    Great great great practices, MaryAlice. Do you ever feel cheesy, or do you get into such a habit that it’s refreshing, even when you’re not particularly in the mood for it? I could really use this, and my father (surely one of the most optimistic, grateful people in the world) is a huge proponent. But I think that getting started with a gratitude journal or gratitude emails would be a hurdle for me because of my propensity for sarcasm and “seeing it like it really is”. Not that I’m proud of either, they’re obstacles.

  • Heather – Doodle Acres

    Beautiful Mary Alice!!! With my oldest son laid up with a pelvic fracture right now, I’ve been struggling to find my “happy place”!!! 🙂 But you are right, an attitude of gratitude makes all the difference. Thanks for the reminder and concrete ways to build that into my life.

  • One thing I find helps, incredibly, is the Divine Praises. When my mood heads south, and especially on those days when it’s hard to see anything good at all, reciting the Divine Praises turn things around. Probably because they help put things back in perspective, and remind me that it’s not all about me.