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5 Fun Ways to Create New Traditions of Gratitude in your Family

Rachel O'Reilly

The holidays offer us a chance to be more deeply reminded of what we’re grateful for… In the midst of the craziness it’s good to pause, go inward, and reflect on the year (which has flown by!), on growing babies, and on the family ties that are woven in our hearts. So let’s all take a breath -- go ahead-- I’ll wait {{ space for breath }} and take a moment with ourselves and our families to think about traditions that bring deep meaning and memories that will outlive this festive time.

The traditions you probably remember from when you were a kid, aside from the thrill of holiday gifts, are most likely not focused on “things” at all, but rather experiences and moments you shared with people who love you. It’s in that spirit of what really matters and stays with us that we humbly offer our ideas to cultivate more gratitude and fuller hearts in your family this time of year, and all year round.

1. A new model for holiday gifting: One family recently shared their holiday gifting tradition with me and I LOVED the idea. It’s simple but so genius! How it works is that each year on Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate), each family member picks a name of another family member out of a hat. They don’t tell anyone whose name they chose. From that moment till next Christmas they have the year to MAKE something for that family member. It doesn’t have to be a Picasso. It can be anything silly, meaningful, or beautiful, but it’s uniquely created with that person in mind. When Christmas gifting comes around the following year, each family member opens a surprise gift that was specially made for them, and learns who created it-- such a fun and meaningful idea, right? I can just imagine the “ooohs” and “aaaahhhs” and hysteric laughter that would erupt in my family! No conventional gifts, only one-of-a-kind marvels. Gratitude for the thoughtful and unusual!

2. See your gratitude: Once a month (or once a week if you’re really on it!) everyone in the family writes down three things: 1. What they love about their family/ home. 2. One thing they want to do better this month (could be as simple as “remember to lock trash can lids”). 3. One thing they’re looking forward to this month. Pick a place in the house -- could be the fridge, a chalk/pin-board, or sticky notes stuck on a door or wall… The point is to have these three things be visible throughout the month. You’ll be amazed by how a little awareness of what you and your family love, are working to do better, and are excited about can transform the energy in your heart and home each time you walk by and read them.

3. Disconnect to reconnect: It may sound rudimentary, but having a digital break is becoming more and more of a novelty with our tech-hooked lives. Try it with your family for a couple hours or maybe even an entire day once a week if you can -- no phones, computers, or screens of any kind. Feel the energy shift and witness the eye contact increase. There’s power in disconnecting to reconnect with each other.

4. Sharing bonds: Whether it’s a nightly or weekly tradition around the dinner table or before bed, say what’s in your heart. The question to pose could be something as simple as, “What are you grateful for today/this week?” or “What made your heart feel full today?” Asking simple questions that give everyone in the family the opportunity to tune in to how their emotions and body feel can instantly create an aligned and uplifted mood for all.  

5. Go outside: Being in nature is one of the quickest ways to be filled with peace and gratitude. It’s easy to forget when we’re not out in it as much as we’d like to be, so make a weekly routine of getting out there, regardless of how crazy the schedule is. Even if it’s just an hour or less to walk or hike on a path near your home every Friday after work or Sunday afternoon. Depending on the age of your kids, ask them what they notice when they’re on their little adventure. You’ll be amazed by what they find and see (and how well they sleep after). Their sense of wonder and appreciation for nature will rub off on you, and vice-versa.

We’d love to know how you and your family cultivate gratitude and connection with each other. Please do tell!