" To raise grateful kids, be grateful for your kids. "- Janice Kaplan
How is your gratitude journey coming along so far? I have kept my gratitude journey afloat almost daily. I missed a couple days, but then I went back to capture the gratitude later. Although I could fairly easily list items to be grateful for after the fact, I found, interestingly to me, that I had a harder time conjuring up the feeling of gratitude that went along with them after the fact. That has been the part I enjoy the most about being grateful- how it makes me feel! Daily!
If you are new to the blog, I am "hosting" a virtual book club at the moment and the book I am talking about is called The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. You are welcome to join in at any time. We have already discovered it is less about reading the book than it is about actually practicing gratitude in our everyday lives. Nonetheless, through the book we go. This week I am covering chapter three, "Raising Grateful Kids."
Kaplan talks fairly early on about how her tendency had always been to interject all kinds of ideas on her kids about what they possibly need or how to improve their lives. I can only speak for myself, but that sounded rather familiar to me. She also went on to say how exhausting it was for her and so when she decided to let that go and instead sit back and enjoy them for their best traits in the moment, how much more relaxed and fulfilling the interactions were. Different aged kids have different needs, of course, but in a nutshell, isn't that what it's all about? Being able to take a step back from the have to's and should's and just breathe in the what is for even just a minute? If you are reading this and have little ones and feel exasperated by their activity levels or running around after them, take in some of the joy of that, for I tell you it is fleeting those times. Be like a dog and wag for them when hey get home from school, that is to say, light up when you see them. Don't let the first thing out of your mouth be something "negative." As my kids have gotten older, I now find that much easier to do because one is already fairly independent, a junior in college out-of-state, and my youngest is a senior in high school, also to be going out of state for college. In fact, earlier this past fall, when she was kind of moody (she won't read this so I can tell you-lol) and we weren't connecting as much as I wanted (she is my baby, after all), I did use gratitude and appreciation as a way to reach her and it worked. For a while I wrote her weekly "love and appreciation" notes, only affirming good things she'd done or experienced and even what great things were in her future.I never ended it with PS , but your bathroom is really a mess, or don't forget to put away your laundry! Sometimes it was really hard to bite my tongue about some of the things getting on my nerves, but that wasn't how I was going to connect with her, so I let them be (hard for me!). I haven't written one in a while and this chapter has sparked a renewed interest in doing that for me. Oh, and if you need another idea, I recently saw on Facebook this idea to place a heart a day on your child's bedroom door with something you love about them written on them, every day for 14 days in February for Valentine's day. But really, it would be a great thing to do anytime. We all love to feel appreciated and seen (In fact, while you are at it, write a love note to yourself , too. Self-appreciation is highly under-rated, and you, my friend, are an amazing, miraculous being).
The one thing though that really stood out for me from Chapter 3 was how kids didn't want to feel indebted and somehow confused that with the ability to feel grateful, even for kids as old as college aged or slightly older. That left me scratching my head. Almost no one in my experience gets anywhere in life without help along the way, even if it's only words of encouragement and a shoulder to lean on. I'll have to explore that one a little more. And perhaps our young adults all need to as well. As Yale President Peter Salovey once conveyed to a graduation class, "the need to express gratitude reminds us that we are not entirely in control; that we might be indebted or dependent; that our destiny is not entirely in our hands; indeed that on occasion we are vulnerable." He later went on to say, "the good life may be out of reach unless we are able to cultivate an openess to accepting help from others and expressing gratitude for that help." It takes a village after all....
I did have an ah-ha moment , though, when I read about the chemistry of the adolescent brain and gratitude. I bet if you are a parent, you have had more than one occasion where you thought (or possibly even expressed out loud) that your kids were completely ungrateful "for everything you do for them or everything they have." Sound familiar? Well apparently, as Kaplan states, "neuroscientists have shown that different regions of the brain develop at different rates. The prefontal cortex which controls reasoning and executive control, is on the slow track." So the reason kids don't know how lucky they are is because they don't. Their brains don't do that sort of thing yet. Oh, knowing this could really be helpful for parents everywhere! I sure could have used this way back when. I have tried to influence my kids gratitude practice by getting them each a journal, which neither one adopted. I have encouraged them to at least think about what they are grateful for but haven't prodded as to if they do that on a regular basis or not. Kaplan talks about different activities as a way to get kids to express what they are grateful for. In most homes it is the stuff of the Thanksgiving table, once a year, but imagine how amazing it would be to have that be our daily lives? One of the experts she consulted, Christine Carter from Berkeley, California said "Finding silver linings gives kids at any age more resilience and helps them short-circuit anxiety." That can only be a good thing.
What was your favorite take away from this chapter? Do your kids have or did they have a regular gratitude practice growing up? Do you already have in place a way to regularly appreciate your kids to their faces?I am so interested to know! Thanks for reading along with me. I'm so grateful you are here. ♥
"I now knew that writing down one thing every day that made me grateful could change my attitude about everything else. A glowing sunset. A good friend's hug. THe first hint of spring. One thing. Who can't do that?"-Janice Kaplan
I chose The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan for my virtual book club back in November. Now that the holidays have come and gone, I want to turn my attention to this book and even more importantly to creating a regular practice of gratitude in my own life, one that goes deeper than I have ever gone before.
Kaplan ends the preface of the book with the above quote. It highlights just how simple culitvating a gratitude practice can be, and yet, as she goes on to explain in the book, few people express gratitude on a regular basis. The John Templeton Foundation funded a survery by Kaplan which found "94% of Americans thought people who are grateful are also more fulfilled and lead richer lives. But less than half the people surveyed said they expressed gratitude on any regular basis." I don't find that hard to believe because although I have had a gratitude practice off and on for many years, and HAVE felt the benefits that go along with that, I have still failed to make it a part of my daily life consistently.
Kaplan's research into gratitude is extensive. She had consulted experts in the field as she progressed through her year-long gratitude experiment. Most of us fail to recognize the good we have instead choosing to focus on what isn't going well or what is lacking in our life. Even Sheryl Crowe sang way back when "It's not having what you want. It's wanting what you've got," and I would add expressing thanks for it to boot! We don't seem wired to look for the good, the silver lining, the ray of sunshine. Kaplan says how experts seem to think, and most agree, that it takes no less than 3 good things to counteract a bad. That's where the gratitude journal comes in. Writing down the three to 5 things you are grateful for as a daily practice reframes a day's events and actually helps re-wire the brain. I can attest to this being 100% true. Task #1-keep a gratitude journal daily!
I purchased a beautiful set of notebooks last year with artwork created by the artist Katie Daisy (she was featured on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday-the best show on television IMHO- a while back, but I digress...). I now have my gratitude journal for the year. I am keeping it by my bed so I have no excuse not to write down my grateful thoughts every night. Kaplan suggests having a beautiful journal will make the practice even better . As a lover of all things paper, it wasn't hard to convince me of that! If you are following along with the book, have you chosen your gratitude journal to use? Show me yours on my facebook page or tag a photo of your gratitude journal on instagram with #WandGgratitudejourney2017. I'd love to see them!
I haven't gotten very far in the book yet, I just finished the section where she focuses on expressing her appreciation of her husband to her husband. She talks about how we tend to forget what is special about the things and people who are a part of our every day life. She states "we get used to something-whether a husband, a house, or a shiny new car-and then forget why it seemed so special in the first place." Can you relate to that? I sure do. She goes on to discuss, and this one really struck me, about how much demand we place on those closest to us to fulfill so many of our needs and desires, as in no other relationship. "And when-inevitably- we aren't feeling on top of the world,. it is clearly (clearly!) our spouse's fault." That kind of hurt to read to be honest, and I am guessing you have felt that way in your relationships perhaps at least once, too. "When you expect everything, it's hard to be grateful for anything." Kaplan then puts aside expectations and spends a full month expressing appreciation for her spouse, even in circumstances she had previously struggled with. I admired reading how she was able to re-frame some of those things. It turns out that the appreciation was returned to her by her spouse as well without any prompting whatsoever, benefiting both of them more times over. Again there was science to back up all the positive feelings going both ways, showing "gratitude could actually increase positive neural circuits and make both partners feel happier." Sounds like it's worth a try.
Although I haven't gotten that far into the book, it is clear to me, that the actual benefit of the book is not in the reading of it, but in embarking on a journey of gratitude inspired by it. In just the first 50 pages of the book, there are all kinds of positive references and reasons to express and focus on gratitude as a daily practice. I have known this for some time, and I am looking forward to 2017 being the year I develop this very important, life-affirming and healthy habit. When we think we can't change the world we are wrong. In expressing gratitude to others and for the things we have, we are in effect causing a ripple of kindness to emanate out of us into the world, and that will change the world. You'll see.
Please join in on the conversation by commenting here or on facebook or on instagram. It will certainly be a way richer experience with your voice involved. I'm grateful you are joining me. See you here next time!
"The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see." -Dr. Robert Holden
If you have been following my blog for any time (maybe a few of you?) or have seen me on Instagram, you may know that gratitude is a theme I am curious about, hence the name "Wonder and Gratitude."
My personal gratitude practice started many, many years ago after seeing Oprah discuss her gratitude journal and the habit of listing 5 things she was grateful for each day before going to sleep. Off and on I have had some sort of gratitude practice. Sometimes I don't practice it regularly, and other times I am so committed. Last year I photo journaled a daily gratitude practice on Instagram under the hashtag #365grateful after seeing the gratitude video projects of two artists Hailey Bartholomew, photographer and the founder of 365grateful.com and Lori Portka, a painter. I encourage you to watch both.
I have found a gratitude practice to be extremely helpful to me in challenging times (and the past two years have been really challenging) And yet, even when I am looking on the bright side, trying to see the good, focusing on what my heart feels grateful for, sometimes I fail at it big time. Sometimes my gratitude feels trite to me, not as sincere as I'd like it to. My heartfelt wish is to have gratitude be the essence of me, to imbue my every pore with a feeling of gratitude and to have it color all my experiences and interactions with its grace. Lofty goal, I know. Maybe I will never achieve that but I'd like to try and move as close to that as possible for me.
Recently while scrolling through Instagram, I came across a book called The Gratitude Diaries: How a year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life. It's a New York Times Bestseller by author Janice Kaplan. I'd never heard of it, have you? It instantly piqued my interest and gave me the idea to host a virtual book club so we can share the gratitude journey together. Would you like to join me? You know it will be so much more fun and interesting with you along, right? Yes, definitely! ♥
To celebrate the first Wonder and Gratitude Virtual Book Club I am going to give away 2 copies of the book and one copy of this gratitude journal (keep reading for how to enter)!
So here is how it will work... Anyone who wants to participate will just buy the book from any bookseller they choose (disclosure: if you purchase using this link, I may get a small commission) or borrow it from your local library if available. The Wonder and Gratitude Virtual Book Club will commence January 2017 so you can get through the holidays and settle in with your book later. I will post my take on the book twice a month and we can all join in on the discussion here on the blog, on Facebook and on Instagram. It will be an encouraging, supportive and love-filled space to grow. I can't wait to see how sharing gratitude will bless us all! Ok, so now for the GIVEAWAY!!!
Due to shipping constraints, the giveaway is limited to only addresses within the 50 US states. Two (2) entrants, randomly selected, will win a copy of the book The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan. A third entrant, randomly selected, will win a copy of Gratitude Journal:A Daily Appreciation by Brenda Nathan. Here's what you have to do to be entered (any or all to increase your chances):
1. Comment on this Blog Post below, telling me where you're from and what you were most grateful for today in just a few words and/or
2. Like my Facebook page and comment on the Gratitude Diaries entry and/or
3. Follow me on Instagram and in the comments section of the Gratitude Diaries post tag TWO (or more) friends who you think would love to join you on a gratitude journey.
That's it! Easy, right?The winners will be announced December 15 and book shipped out in plenty of time for January 2017 book club start! I'm so excited and grateful to get to do this with you!♥