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Creating a Sense of Gratitude

I have gone through phases during this past year of both encouragement and disappointment. One moment it seems like things are starting to go back the way they were, and the next day it seems like we are taking steps back once again. During a time when there is so much that is out of our control, it is easy to focus on the things that cause anxiety and uncertainty instead of the things that bring encouragement and joy. It has taken a conscious effort to bring about a true sense of gratitude during the past year, and it has challenged me to take hold of my negative thoughts and transform them to create a sense of gratitude.

If you are struggling like I am and are looking for ways to practice more gratitude during these uncertain times, here are some pointers:

Give Yourself Grace

First and foremost, make sure to give yourself grace during this time. There is no right way to respond or correct emotion to express while facing what is happening in our world right now. Give yourself grace to process your emotions in whatever time frame works best for you. You are doing the best you can in a situation that none of us have ever been a part of, so make sure to give yourself a big pat on the back for each victory...both big and small.

Notice the Little Things: It is easy to notice and be thankful for the big things, but the truth is there are so many little things around us that make the days a little brighter. At the end of the day make a list of all the small things that made you smile that day. Today my list includes: blooming flowers, my baby’s belly laugh, snuggles from my toddler, my daughter’s dance moves, a lunch made by my husband, and the sunshine. Creating this list is a quick and easy way to end your day on a positive note.    

Create Space for Silence: The practice of meditation and mindfulness (even for 10 minutes a day) quite literally changes our brains. When we allow our brains to shut off from all the noise and distractions around us our brains are physiologically altered, our imagination gets rewired, our relaxation brainwaves increase and our anxiety and depression decrease. Having a clear mind, uplifts our spirits and helps us to focus on the things we are thankful to have in our lives. Check out for ideas on how to meditate and practice mindfulness.

* Sleep Tip: A relaxing activity (meditating/journaling) in a dim setting during your bedtime ritual can help separate your sleep time from activities that create stress or anxiety. It can clear your mind and help your body relax as you get ready to crawl into bed. 

Write it Down: Expressing your gratitude towards others is another way to show the people we love how much they mean to us. There are so many times I forget to tell the people closest to me how much I need and appreciate them. Write a letter or a note to the people you are grateful for. It can be a family member, a close friend, or even an essential worker that you don’t know showing your appreciation. Not only will it make you feel better, it can make that person’s day a little brighter as well.

Another way to express positive thoughts on paper is through a gratitude journal; the daily practice of writing down what we are grateful for. This is one of those practices that can start as something to check off a to-do list at the end of the day, but eventually can turn into a daily habit that increases happiness, improves mental health, and even helps you sleep better! Not sure where to start or what to write about? Here is a good place to get started

Gratitude for Kids: If we are feeling anxious or overwhelmed during this time, you can bet our kiddos are feeling it as well. Here are a few activities to help your child practice gratitude:

  • Thank You Notes: write to a friend, family member, or essential worker
  • Gratitude Glass Jar- set a clear jar in the center of your house with scratch pieces of paper and a pen next to it. When your child thinks of something they are thankful for, have them write it down and put it in the jar. Then choose a time as a family to empty the jar and read all of your thankful thoughts together as a family.
  • Gratitude Rocks-paint rocks with encouraging words on them to display around the neighborhood
  • Thankful Window or Mirror: With a window marker, have your child write what they are thankful for on a window or a mirror for neighbors and family member to see.
  • Gratitude Drawing Journal: (young kids)-have them draw something they think is fun, they love to do, makes them happy, someone they love, someone they are thankful for, or something that makes them smile.
  • Read Books about Gratitude: We highly recommend to include reading as part of your child’s bedtime routine to help wind the body down and prepare it for sleep. Reading is also a great way to start conversations around gratitude. Here are some great books about gratitude you can read with your littles.
  • Bedtime Thank Yous: Have your kiddos think of happy things that happened to them during their day. They can simply say these things aloud, write them down in their journal, draw a picture of them, or simply think of them. This exercise can ensure that your child drifts off to sleep with a heart full of love and gratitude.

It is easy to get caught up in all of the changes and fear of the unknown, and forget to remember all the things in our lives to be grateful for this season. Before your head hits the pillow at the end of a long day, I want to encourage you to take a few minutes each day to look for the small things that bring you joy, write them down, and express your gratitude with those around you.

About the author

Amanda Medley

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

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