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  • Writer's pictureKaty Lloyd

Grateful for gratefuls - getting more than one word answers from your kids

Do you find it hard to get more than a "good/bad/OK" from your kids when you ask how their day was? Our family has discovered a sneaky trick that not only gets them to share more than one syllable, but actually volunteer the cool stuff they have been doing during the day. We have built a habit of sharing what we are grateful for at the dinner table. The kids love it so much that my 6 year old now leads our round of gratefuls every night. If you want to hear more about the broader benefits of gratitude and how we made this regular dinner table conversation in our house then read on. Maybe reading this blog is one thing you might put on your grateful list for today!

Bringing work home

My gratitude habit started at work. I've had the privilege of working with an incredible boss who's very big on positive psychology. For the last couple of years she has made sure that every single one of our team meetings started with connecting over what we're all grateful for - no matter how much work stuff there was to discuss!

I loved learning about what was important to my teammates and connecting more with them as people. It was especially great when we were were all locked in our bubbles during various lockdowns! It’s such an ingrained habit now that when someone can’t make a meeting they make sure they send their grateful through to the team. This is a selection of some of them from my team, from diggers in the driveway to random funny stuff we have seen on TV!

The Benefits of gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful emotion that can strengthen relationships with family and friends, Research shows that when individuals show gratitude (ie recognising good things in their life large or small) that the health and psychological benefits are profound and long lasting, and can even have a greater effect on our mental health than some anti-depressants. I won't go into all the ins and outs as there is plenty you can learn from a good Google. What I will share is a bit of neuroscience. Showing gratitude creates a neurochemical cocktail that explains a bit about how it makes us feel better. Showing gratitude sees our neural circuitry release a shot of dopamine (a feel good hormone similar to what you get when you win something/get rewarded etc.) This triggers positive emotions, we feel more optimistic, and it fosters camaraderie with others. Dopamine is joined by a shot of serotonin as well. This is the "happy hormone" that acts as a natural mood enhancer and even an anti-depressant. This combination improves our mood, and if we do this on a regular basis, actually rewires our brain to focus more readily on what is going right rather than finding things going wrong. If we can train our brain in this way then we will get the ongoing effects.

What does this looks like practically? Old habits are hard to break. It's easier to form new ones that naturally make the old ones defunct or drop off. It's like finding a new route to drive somewhere. It might be a bit harder at first and you rely heavily on google maps. However, the view might be better, or it's faster etc. so it's worth persisting. The more you do it, the more familiar it becomes. Overtime it becomes your natural way of travelling and you forget about the way you used to go. By making daily gratitude your new destination will foster the positive benefits, and let more negative stuff drop off.

If you're still a bit skeptical, or want to learn more, Here's an article from Forbes which includes some scientific backing behind why it's so good for us. Or if you want to get technical here are some articles with the health benefits and neuroscience behind it that I referenced above.

Bringing gratitude into your life

An easy way to start with your family is asking everyone to share the best parts of their day. Whether it was an awesome event, or just the fact that you had lunch. Ask everyone in turn to share. Make it a habit so everyone gets used to it and knows to expect it. You'll be amazed at how quickly the comments turn from silly stuff from the kids that revolve around toilet humour to sharing things that are really meaningful and give you a window into their day. My six-year-old loves this, and takes the lead every night. She has turned it into a family tradition with our extended family too.

Once everyone has settled in, she and her 7 year old cousin lead the round of gratefuls. It's a hot fight over who gets to go next s you can see from this family pic. It’s a great way to connect with family members and has brought our extended family closer. Even hearing more from those that might not normally share like teenage boys! It's been cool to see her cousin pick up the baton for his own family smaller family dinners.

Take the first step today

My challenge to you: At the dinner table tonight, invite your family or flatmates to share the best part of their day, or something they are grateful for. Try it for at least a week and see what difference it makes. I'd love to hear how it goes so feel free to come back and comment below.

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