How to Keep a Thankful Heart all Year Long

Thanksgiving is over so quickly. More and more it feels like a snack break between shopping binges, not a time to slow down and be grateful for all we have. An elementary school teacher I know was shocked when she asked her young students about their favorite holiday and quite a few responded “Black Friday.” (If that’s not a sign that the apocalypse is near, I don’t know what is.) My own students at the juvenile detention center are often more upset about the deals they are missing than the time with family that is lost. But for those who want to, there is a way to extend Thanksgiving. The Gratitude Experiment by Tall Trees Grow Deep, which I’ve talked about before, was inspired by a TEDtalk by Professor Shawn Achor. It has you and your family take 5 minutes a day for 21 days to think of 3 new things to be grateful for (5/21/3). It’s a very simple but powerful activity in growing our gratitude muscle. It’s been proven to make people happier. And it is worth repeating every year.

The idea behind the activity is to extend the period of thankfulness beyond one prayer around a turkey. It is also an exercise in thinking creatively about all the wonderful things we have around us. It’s easy to list the top three things we usually are grateful for: health, family, and shopping malls. But it takes some effort to keep coming up with new things every day. You’ll eventually run out of shopping malls. And that’s the beautiful part. Once you go down the rabbit hole of gratitude, you start seeing things everywhere to be grateful for. As you follow through on this activity, you are forced each day to come up with more material for your gratitude chart, and then you start to look at everything around you through a lens of thankfulness. And the bottom line is, it makes you happy. Because every moment we are alive is a moment to be thankful. With the right perspective, you can be thankful for the busy urgent care waiting room and your son’s skin rash that brought you there. Or at least you can try.

For 21 days in a row take 5 minutes and think of 3 NEW things to be grateful for.  Hopefully, you never stop. Here’s a chart for you and your family to use, and some contemplation questions for when it is all over: Gratitude Experiment by Tall Trees Grow Deep.

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Tall Trees Grow Deep is devoted to creating and sharing free resources that inspire mindfulness, contemplation, compassion, creativity, deep-thinking, and awesomeness. All activities are universal–no religion necessary–and designed to work in the classroom or around the kitchen table. If you haven’t already, subscribe to get new stuff sent to your email. Or explore our growing page of free, printable, reproducible activities for home or school.

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