Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankfulness and Happiness

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving!

Our family is actually celebrating Thanksgiving Saturday so my oldest don't have to gorge themselves all in one day at both sets of parents. They can gorge themselves on two days!

Many of my friends are writing things they are thankful for every day this month. I was being a bit contrary and didn't follow their lead, but I thought that was an awesome thing to do. Often when things get tough, I try to think of things that I'm grateful for, since it usually makes me feel better about my situation. Thankfulness is all over the Bible, and it is something that pleases God. But it's also something that even those who don't consider themselves religious can aspire toward. There have been studies done linking gratefulness to the feeling of well-being. http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/Labs/emmons/PWT/index.cfm?Section=4

Sometimes it's hard to be thankful. I can really get wrapped up in negative feelings when people I love become sick or even die, or finances are tight, cars break down, or the kids are driving me up a wall with their behaviors.  But I've found that even when things look really bad, there is always something to be grateful for. And the more I focus on the good things, the smaller the bad things appear. Or, at the very least, the bad things are a little more tolerable. It's not like the bad things disappear, but they aren't so devastating. Making a concerted effort to list things I am grateful for has helped me to be a happier person.

This afternoon I read this in the link above:

Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008). 

I realized that though I've modeled being grateful to my youngest kids, I really haven't had them practice thankfulness. Part of it is my aversion to the old thought of orphans should be grateful that someone took them in under their roof. I've read so many stories, especially set in the 1800's, of people who mistreat orphans yet require the children to be thankful for the crumbs that have fallen their way. I didn't ever want my kids to think that they weren't worthy of love or that they were a second class person in our family. Because of that, I haven't encouraged them to express thankfulness as much as would be good for them. They have also had some pretty intense RAD behaviors and materialism that have left them with a feeling of never having enough. Of course getting more things doesn't fill the void they feel in their hearts. Gratefulness is the last thing on their minds. So I'm wondering now if our family should start a tradition of saying one thing a day that we are grateful for. It would model thankfulness and also get the kids, get all of us, to focus not on what we lack, but on the blessings we do have. I want my kids to be happy, and this seems like a pretty good way to do it. Maybe that's why thankfulness was such a big issue in God's eyes.

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