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“Sometimes life is so hard. I just wish I could be in a better mood, so I could be nicer to my kids!" - Karen

"We're not grateful because we're happy. We're happy because we're grateful.” - Brother David Stendl-Rast

Life can be hard. And being a parent is one of the hardest things we do. No wonder we're in a bad mood sometimes.

Getting into a better mood takes effort. We can choose to see things differently, to take better care of ourselves, to tackle the problems that are wearing us down. But that takes work. And there will always be hard days. So if you want an easy way to make a bad day better, and an easy way to increase the happiness you feel on a daily basis, you'll be happy to know that researchers have discovered a strategy that actually works: Gratitude.

Every spiritual tradition has a practice of gratitude.  Not just for some presumed spiritual or ethical benefit, but because it works. The heartfelt expression of gratitude lifts us out of the mind’s usual restless feeling of “not enough” into the joy of sufficiency.  We open ourselves to take in the blessings that surround us.

Let's do an experiment.
Right now:
Name 10 things for which you're grateful.  Feel that gratitude.
Actually do this.
At least 10.

What do you notice after doing this practice?

Research shows that you can actually shift a bad mood with an avalanche of appreciation. 

You can even do this with your kids -- they love it! Just start naming things you're grateful for and let everyone chime in. Keep it up for five minutes, and the whole mood in your family will have shifted.

Ready to extend your experiment?

1. Every night before you go to sleep, write down at least three things you're grateful for.  (Repetition allowed.) Research shows that finding just three things to feel thankful for increases your happiness set point to make you objectively happier. If you've had a hard time with your child that day, find three things just about your child. 

2. Try this with your children during your night time ritual.  Of course we all want our children to be appropriately grateful.  But do this just for the happiness, not to make your child a "better" person.

3. Try this in lieu of grace, or in addition to it, at your evening meal, by going around the table and having everyone chime in. You'll find this avalanche of appreciation also builds sibling bonds as kids begin to express their appreciation of each other.

No matter how difficult the day, there is always something for which to be grateful.
May your day be filled with the miracle of gratitude.

"If the only prayer you said in your life was 'THANK YOU,'  that would suffice." -- Meister Eckhart 

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Wednesday, February 06, 2013 | Permalink | Blog Home
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