8 Tips to Move Gratitude from Attitude to Action
As Thanksgiving approaches, we turn our attention to the concept of gratitude, its importance as a Jewish value and ways to nurture it in our families on an ongoing basis.
The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat hatov, which literally means, “recognizing the good.” This concept evokes the popular notion of an “attitude of gratitude,” which encourages us to appreciate the positive aspects of our lives, particularly during times of struggle.
Unfortunately, a simple “attitude adjustment” may be insufficient for inspiring the deep sense of fulfillment and appreciation that so many of us seek. Well-known researcher and best-selling author Brené Brown points out that an “attitude” is simply a way of thinking, which doesn’t always translate into a behavior. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You Are Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brown suggests that, in order to truly experience gratitude, we must channel our “attitude” into some concrete action – what she calls one’s gratitude practice.
In this same spirit, hakarat hatov calls for us to put our gratitude in action by acknowledging the givers of gifts, whether it’s another person, an inanimate object, or some higher spiritual force. This is why traditional Judaism includes blessings for all the “miracles” we experience daily – such as waking up in the morning, sitting down to a meal, and the relationships we hold most sacred. In essence, in our Jewish tradition, every day is Thanksgiving!
This Thanksgiving and holiday season, we encourage you to begin creating a unique gratitude practice that resonates for you and your family. Following are some simple ideas to turn your gratitude from attitude to action:
- Model your appreciation of others’ time and effort by consistently saying “thank you,” and be as specific as possible about what the person did or said that made a difference for you. This includes acknowledging your children for their contributions at home and school.
- Tell your children regularly what you are grateful for in your life, and what you appreciate in them as a son or daughter, brother or sister, or friend.
- Help your children recognize and appreciate the intangible gifts from others with comments such as, “it was so thoughtful of Sarah to call you to ask how you are feeling” or “how special that grandma spent time teaching you how to knit.”
- Encourage your children to write thank you notes, not only when they receive gifts but also to acknowledge others for their friendship or support.
- Develop a daily gratitude meditation or recite a prayer as a family before dinner or with your children at bedtime.
- Create a gratitude jar and have family members write down on a slip of paper something that they are grateful for each day (younger children can dictate to you what to write; older children can draw pictures and begin to write words). At the end of the week, take turns picking out slips and reading aloud what was written.
- Express yourselves with a gratitude-inspired art project that the family can do together. Ideas include photo and magazine collages, a family quilt, or homemade thank you cards (great to use for the upcoming holidays!).
- Use a website to set up a free and private online gratitude journal. There are lots to choose from!
Through our daily actions and conversations and the intentional rituals we create as a family, we can nurture the value of hakarat hatov in ourselves and our children. We wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving filled with quiet reflection, boisterous joy, and many moments of heart-felt gratitude.
Want to teach your child more about gratitude? Check out these book recommendations below.
- Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carol McCloud
- The Thankful Book by Todd Parr
- Rivka’s First Thanksgiving by Elsa Okon Rael
- The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco