1. Thank people in person. People like to know that you really appreciate their gifts. Let them know you notice how they went out of their way to help you and how it may have cost them to do it.
2. Insist on your kids writing thank-you notes. Tell the givers why you like and appreciate their gifts so they know you are being sincere in your thanks.
3. Keep a gratitude journal. Writing down each day what you are grateful for puts anyone into a positive and happy state of mind. These thoughts can be expressed through words or pictures.
4. Write letters of appreciation to people who have made a difference in your life or the lives of others. I have kids imagine how someone like a soldier overseas or a lonely elderly person would feel by receiving such a note during the holidays.
5. Remember some “negative” times you have experienced, like the loss of a loved one you thought you’d never get over, and then contrast where you are now compared to weeks, months, or years ago. Focusing on the progress you have made and how far you have come brings positive feelings of appreciation, confidence, and pride.
6. The “George Bailey Effect.” Have kids imagine what their life would be like without a major blessing like their parents, a sibling, their best friend, or a positive life event. Doing so usually brings feelings of thankfulness for those people and experiences. And watch the movie It’s a Wonderful Life with the whole family.
7. Delay gratification. Doing so will cause you to more fully appreciate the experience or object than if it was just given to you when demanded. And it feels even better if you had some “skin in the game”, i.e. were invested in some way in achieving it.
8. Being of service to others, especially those who are in need and have less than you, brings an appreciation for all the people and things in your life.
9. Work gratitude into your daily conversations. So many people connect through gossip and rumors, and so encourage your kids to instead include more positive language like encouragement, blessings, content, fortunate, abundance, appreciation, blessed, and thankfulness into their conversations with peers and family.
10. Focus on the gifts and lessons you received from unpleasant experiences. It is a way to forgive and move on from negative feelings and into gratitude.
The truth is that you cannot be in a state of anger or fear and gratitude at the same time. I encourage kids to discipline themselves to practice gratitude in the above ways as often as possible, and daily is best. Research shows that expressing appreciation helps people feel more joyful, happy, connected, and content, and this in turn makes it easier to be more thankful and to want to communicate gratitude.
Gratitude is truly the gift that keeps on giving, and the holiday season is a great time to begin.