‘Tis the season to be grateful! Research shows that practicing gratitude intentionally (and not just having a passing grateful thought) makes it more meaningful and is an effective skill for boosting happiness. Small but important details of how you practice gratitude can affect how beneficial this happiness skill can be. For instance, writing down what you’re grateful for helps to organize your thoughts and make it more clear and real in your head. Expressing gratitude to others makes them feel appreciated and allows you to experience the effects of that. So here are two gratitude activity suggestions for all ages:
- Gratitude scavenger hunt. Make a list of 20 (or more!) prompts for things that people feel grateful for. Participants have a limited amount of time to find evidence of of each and bring them back – first one back wins. The prompts can be related to anything at all. You can find ideas in senses (something that smells good), feelings (something that makes me feel excited), thinking (something that I recently learned), location (something in nature/a place I have visited), comparatives (someone who is older than me/from a different culture), characteristics (something that is red/tiny/attached to the ground, etc.). Give participants chances to use people as their answers since feeling grateful for people tends to be more meaningful than feeling grateful for things. And give people a chance to feel grateful for adversity (something that was hard for me, something that scared me, something I didn’t want to do). Afterward, talk about why they are grateful for some of these things.
- Gratitude jars. Have everyone in the family jot down ten (or more!) things about each family member that they are grateful for. Research shows that specific gratitude (acknowledging the giver’s intentions, the cost to the giver, or the benefit to the recipient) is more meaningful then vague gratitude. So, “That time you brought me to work when my car wouldn’t start, and you didn’t make me feel bad about it even though it made you late for work. I was able to get there in time to deliver my presentation, which made me a contender for that promotion” is likely to feel more meaningful then “You’re a helpful person.”