The Gratitude Experiment for Young People

One of the most practical and amazing activities I’ve done with my own children (and with my students) is what I call the gratitude experiment. It’s based on a TED talk by Shawn Achor, who is a happiness expert out of Harvard.  It’s quite simple: 21/5/3!  Every day for 21 Days, take 5 minutes a day and think of 3 new things you are grateful for.  Here’s a nifty little printable gratitude activity sheet I made for my students to fill in, along with some contemplation questions to consider at the end of the three weeks:  Gratitude Experiment by Tall Trees Grow Deep. Help yourself.  But beware.  Actively practicing gratitude can really change your life.  Here’s what happened to me.

First, let’s review.  Every day, take two minutes to write down three NEW things you are grateful for.  The NEW is important.  My sons quickly learned they could not just say video games and candy and pizza over and over.  What happens is you become challenged to keep finding more and more things to be grateful for, which can seem hard at first. But really, it is not that hard if you take the time to really look. I’ve always tried to be grateful, but it can be easy to fall back on being grateful for the same stuff: job, wife, health, kids.  But the experiment gets you to think deeper about your life.  By day three of the experiment, I had to really start thinking of some new material. I had to work at being grateful. And because of that, I started looking around more. I started to wear the glasses of gratitude. And, duh, there’s awesome stuff everywhere. I mean, if you have the capabilities to read this right now, you have more stuff and free time than most the world.

Be grateful.

I started being grateful for things I never thought of before, like fountains in parks (I really love a good fountain) and raining bike rides to work (because I appreciate the sun more the next day) and angry people at stores who test my patience (because it reminds me I’ve gotten a little more patient over the years).

The experiment worked, and my wife and I have decided to make it an annual event (because the glasses of gratitude are easy to lose).  Try it.  For 21 Days take 5 minutes and think of 3 new things.  Hopefully, you never stop. Make sure you check out the contemplation guide I made to go with the experience: Gratitude Experiment by Tall Trees Grow Deep. And here’s a link to the TED talk that inspired it all.

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Tall Trees Grow Deep is devoted to getting young people (and, sure, old farts, too) to slow down, think deeply, contemplate, and live AWEsome lives. Subscribe to get articles sent to your email (and I’ll throw in a sample e-book of contemplation and deep-thinking activities for young people). Or check out some of our free, printable, ready-to-go mindfulness and awesomeness resources.

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